History professor Bob Bussel, who also directs the UO’s Labor Education and Research Center, will discuss his new book on the Teamsters Union at a pair of upcoming events in Eugene and Portland.
The book, “Fighting for Total Person Unionism: Harold Gibbons, Ernest Calloway and Working-Class Citizenship,” is part of the University of Illinois Press series “The Working Class in American History.” Bussell will talk about the book at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 3 in the Wayne Morse Commons of the Knight Law Center on campus and at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 5 at the UO’s White Stag Building in Portland.
“Fighting for Total Person Unionism” tells the story of labor leaders Harold Gibbons and Ernest Calloway, who championed a new kind of labor movement that regarded workers as "total persons" interested in both workplace affairs and the exercise of effective citizenship in their communities.
Working through Teamsters Local 688 and viewing the city of St. Louis, Missouri, as their laboratory, this interracial duo forged a political alliance in the 1950s and 1960s that placed their "citizen members" on the front lines of battles for urban revitalization, improved public services and the advancement of racial and economic justice.
Parallel to their political partnership, Gibbons functioned as a top Teamsters Union leader and Calloway as an influential figure in St. Louis' civil rights movement. Their pioneering efforts not only altered St. Louis' social and political landscape but also raised fundamental questions about the fate of the post-industrial city, the meaning of citizenship and the role of unions in shaping American democracy.
"Bussel is offering us a unique perspective on the nation's largest union in an era when it was at its peak of influence,” historian David Witwer said. “He also asserts that the careers of these two men offer important lessons to organized labor today, of tactics and approaches that would help the movement regain its lost relevance."