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Documenting the History of Labor Movements in Los Angeles

L.A. recently gained attention as a hub of organized labor activity, but its culture of community-lead social change emerged long before 2023's "Hot Labor Summer."

In the first installment of L.A. Stories, Tobias Higbie(opens in a new tab), UCLA Professor of History and Labor Studies, and Vivian Rothstein, retired Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) and UNITE HERE Local 11 organizer, discuss labor movements in Los Angeles over the years and the role of UCLA Library in preserving this important history.

They reflect on the shifts in public and political support for workers' movements in Los Angeles, which have transformed from the hostile “open-shop” attitudes of the early 20th century to the present surge in labor action and negotiations to improve working conditions for Angelenos in a number of occupations.

Labor & Working Class History Collections

The collections at UCLA Library related to labor history in Los Angeles document and preserve the campaigns of a largely immigrant, low-wage workforce to establish higher wages and better working conditions. In partnership with the UCLA Labor Center, Memory Work Los Angeles(opens in a new tab), highlights the history of progressive unionism in southern California and captures individual workers’ stories in their own words, including through UNITE HERE Local 11 Oral Histories(opens in a new tab)(opens in a new tab).

Featured materials from UCLA Library Special Collections include records from Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE)(opens in a new tab), UNITE HERE Local 11(opens in a new tab), and Service Employees International Union(opens in a new tab)(opens in a new tab), as well as photographs from Los Angeles Times Photographic Collection(opens in a new tab) and clips from the KTLA Newsfilm Collection(opens in a new tab) at the UCLA Film & Television Archive, a division of UCLA Library.

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