Tuesday, September 08, 2009


IWS Documented News Service
Institute for Workplace Studies----------------- Professor Samuel B. Bacharach
School of Industrial & Labor Relations
-------- Director, Institute for Workplace Studies
Cornell University
16 East 34th Street, 4th floor
---------------------- Stuart Basefsky
New York, NY 10016
-------------------------------Director, IWS News Bureau


By John Emerson
Pressed into Service [LINCOLN CUSHING INTERVIEW] [8 September 2009]
Author of
Agitate! Educate! Organize!: American Labor Posters (Cornell University Press, 2009)

Labor Day in North America started with typography. In 1872, printers in the Toronto Typographical Union rose up to demand a nine-hour workday and Saturdays off. When protesters were arrested and their demands went unmet, they called a strike. Others joined, and the demonstrations quickly grew to become the largest in Canada to date. That pressure, along with nudging from anxious business owners, ultimately pushed politicians to pass Canada's Trade Union Act, which legalized and protected union activity. The victory gave rise to an annual celebration, Labor Day­which in turn inspired U.S. workers. In 1894, striking railroad employees and their supporters pushed Congress and President Grover Cleveland to pass a law creating a national Labor Day.

Workers have had their share of victories and defeats in the hundred years since, and today a mere 12 percent of the American workforce is unionized. Throughout this history, graphic design has played an important supporting role: bringing workers together, calling for action, celebrating victories and commemorating fallen heroes.

Surprisingly, a survey of this visual landscape has never before been published. < http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0801474272/designobserver-20/ > Agitate! Educate! Organize!: American Labor Posters (Cornell University Press) is the first of its kind. Compiled and edited by Lincoln Cushing and Timothy W. Drescher, the book spans the history of the labor movement in the U.S. Its 216 pages are packed with 268 color reproductions, many of them full-page. The accompanying text provides interpretation and context. (The book is union printed, of course.)

The images trace stories of work in America through a wide variety of visual strategies. Many of the issues are as relevant as ever: fighting for safe working conditions, dignity and respect, a fair wage and an end to discrimination.

I spoke with Lincoln Cushing about the book, its genesis and the trouble with political posters.

John Emerson
What are the origins of the project?

Lincoln Cushing
Around 2001, I was hired as a librarian at the Institute of Industrial Relations at UC Berkeley. Being a librarian is my second career. I had been a printer for 20 years and was familiar with the labor movement. Once in that job, I realized that an area of material that hasn't been well documented was poster art. I applied for and received a grant to identify repositories of posters around the country. The grant paid for travel and research. After poking around, I found a publisher interested in doing a book and it took off from there. I picked up a co-author, Tim Drescher, who is a mural scholar and a good friend of mine.

Now all of this is in a database?

Yeah, the database has about 900 images of material that I've shot.


This information is provided to subscribers, friends, faculty, students and alumni of the School of Industrial & Labor Relations (ILR). It is a service of the Institute for Workplace Studies (IWS) in New York City. Stuart Basefsky is responsible for the selection of the contents which is intended to keep researchers, companies, workers, and governments aware of the latest information related to ILR disciplines as it becomes available for the purposes of research, understanding and debate. The content does not reflect the opinions or positions of Cornell University, the School of Industrial & Labor Relations, or that of Mr. Basefsky and should not be construed as such. The service is unique in that it provides the original source documentation, via links, behind the news and research of the day. Use of the information provided is unrestricted. However, it is requested that users acknowledge that the information was found via the IWS Documented News Service.

Stuart Basefsky                   
Director, IWS News Bureau                
Institute for Workplace Studies 
Cornell/ILR School                        
16 E. 34th Street, 4th Floor             
New York, NY 10016                        
Telephone: (607) 255-2703                
Fax: (607) 255-9641                       
E-mail: smb6@cornell.edu                  

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?