FAYETTEVILLE -- A Teach-In on April 8 that will include several labor experts will provide an opportunity for attendees to learn more about labor issues in the region and connect with labor advocates.
The event at the Fayetteville Public Library from 1-4:30 p.m. is free and open to the public, according to Michael Pierce, an associate professor of history at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
Speakers will include representatives from the state chapter of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (Arkansas AFL-CIO); Starbucks Workers United; Venceremos, a worker-based nonprofit based in Springdale and focused on the rights of poultry workers; the UA-Fayetteville Education Association/Local 965; Southern States Millwright Regional Council (which consists of more than 5,000 millwrights from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America across 11 states, including Arkansas); and International Association of Fire Fighters.
The Northwest Arkansas Labor Council and UA-Fayetteville Education Association/Local 965 are hosting the Northwest Arkansas Labor Spring Teach-In. Teach-ins are informal forums designed to educate on complex, contemporary topics, according to Pierce.
"The goal is to bring together working people who want to make their jobs better, to put them in touch with like-minded people, to provide them with tools and access to resources, to hear about successes and to provide a sense of belonging," Pierce said.
The event is part of a series of roughly 60 similar teach-ins nationwide at or near college campuses this spring organized by the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University and the Labor and Working-Class History Association, according to Pierce. More information is available from Pierce at [email protected] or by visiting the Facebook event page for the teach-in.
This is the first time such an event has been held here, Pierce said. "The small union here on campus had been discussing a spring event and when" the Kalmanovitz Initiative "reached out with the idea of holding teach-ins around the nation, we jumped on board."
After decades of eroding support, unions have jumped in popularity among Americans in recent years. A Gallup poll from August 2022 found 71% of Americans approved of labor unions -- the highest percentage since 1965 -- up 23% from 2010, when only 48% approved.
Roughly 16% of Americans live in a union household -- where at least one resident is a union member -- and 40% of members rate their membership as "extremely important," according to Gallup. However, a majority of nonunion workers -- 58% -- say they are "not interested at all" in joining a union, with only 11% saying they're "extremely interested" in doing so.
Founded in 2009, the Kalmanovitz Initiative "was created as a space to engage questions of workers' rights and the future of the labor movement," according to the Kalmanovitz Initiative. Since then, it's "taken on special projects that explore policies supporting workers' rights, coalition building between labor and community groups, and connecting students to local advocacy and organizing opportunities."
The Labor and Working-Class History Association is an organization of scholars, teachers, students, labor educators, and activists who seek to promote public and scholarly awareness of labor and working-class history through research, writing, and organizing, according to the organization. Founded in 1998, its current president is James Gregory, professor of history at University of Washington.