Lane Windham, KI Associate Director, Receives Prestigious Labor History Award

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KI Associate Director Lane Windham has been awarded the prestigious 2018 David Montgomery Award from the Organization of American Historians (OAH) at its annual meeting in Sacramento, California. The honor, which is cosponsored by the Labor and Working-Class History Association (LAWCHA), is awarded to the best book on a topic in American labor and working-class history.

Lane was awarded for her groundbreaking book Knocking on Labor’s Door about union organizing in the 1970s. Lane also serves as co-director of the Women Innovating Labor Leadership project (WILL Empower), which aims to identify, train and convene a new generation of women labor leaders.

David Montgomery Award
Lane Windham, Georgetown University. Knocking on Labor’s Door: Union Organizing in the 1970s and the Roots of a New Economic Divide (University of North Carolina Press) counters the argument that the power of the labor movement declined in the 1970s as unions stopped organizing and workers turned away from unions. Through her focus on women, people of color, and southerners, historian Windham contends that workers combined traditional working-class tools with new legislative gains and organizing strategies from the civil rights and women’s rights movements. Case studies of shipbuilding, textile, retail, service, and clerical employees reveal how labor organizing did not weaken or cease. Instead, labor’s ability to win union elections steeply declined, tracking the increase in employer resistance to union organizing. Windham’s book explores union organizing in both the industrial and service sectors, showing the vibrancy in union organizing in each, despite different constraints and obstacles.

Windham also plumbs the national scene, looking at the push for new unionization and how corporations fought successfully to weaken labor law and its enforcement. Well organized and researched, utilizing an impressive range of sources, Windham’s Knocking on Labor’s Door showcases the voices of local working-class activists, even as it reveals a national story. It is an apt example of the legacy of labor and working-class history that David Montgomery championed and an important study of labor’s most misunderstood decade.

The award was presented on April 13 by OAH’s 2017–18 President Edward L. Ayers and 2018–19 President Earl Lewis.