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Joyce L. Kornbluh


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Joyce Lewis Kornbluh, an educator, activist, and advocate, has spent over fifty-five years of her life striving to improve workplace conditions and the economic and social status of working-class people, especially low-paid women minority workers. She has been a tireless promoter of equality for women in their workplaces and labor organizations, and has also helped bring about laws and education programs dealing with affirmative action, equal pay, and the end of sexual harassment in the workplace.

From 1954 to 1956, Joyce Kornbluh served as the Executive Secretary of the Joint Minimum Wage Committee in Washington, DC, and coordinated one of history’s most successful lobbying campaigns for eight international unions with the intent to increase and extend coverage of the federal minimum wage. That triumphant campaign, a model for future union legislative action, achieved the first major increase in the minimum wage (from $.75 to $1.00) and brought about a wide expansion in minimum wage coverage to low-paid workers.

In 1974, Joyce Kornbluh initiated the Program on Women and Work at the University of Michigan’s Labor Studies Center to conduct research and provide education for and about women workers and women in labor organizations. Inspired by the summer schools started in 1921 at Bryn Mawr College by Hilda Smith, Kornbluh started the contemporary movement of regional, state, and national Summer Schools for Working Women.

Kornbluh and Hilda Patricia Curran initiated and co-chaired the Michigan Task Force on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. From 1979 to 1980, the Task Force created workshops about workplace sexual harassment, trained a network of workshop leaders, conducted regional mock legislative hearings (because the Michigan Legislature refused to hold formal hearings), held a large national conference, one of the first in the nation on this issue, and carried out an extensive lobbying campaign. The Task Force resulted in the first state-level sexual harassment law in Michigan that served as a model for other states and for national legislation.

Kornbluh developed and taught the first credit course at the University of Michigan on Women and Work in US Society, In 1985 she was asked to advise on the first major effort to assess workplace sexual harassment in Sweden. She has also served as a part-time faculty member at the National Labor College in Maryland and at Goddard College in Vermont.

A message from Joyce about the republishing of Rebel Voices:

"I am delighted that another generation of activists, scholars, and labor rights advocates will benefit from having renewed access to this book. In this harsh economic environment of social inequality, certainly the songs,  philosophy, politics and history of the IWW speaks to the 99 percent! The more Wobblies the better.  Best wishes to all, Joyce  "

 

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Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology
Edited by Joyce L. Kornbluh
Preface by Daniel Gross
Contributions by Franklin Rosemont
Introduction by Fred Thompson
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-483-0
Published: September 2011
Format: Paperback
Size: 10 by 7
Page count: 472 Pages
Subjects: History, Labor, Politics
$27.95

Welcoming women, Blacks, and immigrants long before most other unions, the Wobblies from the start were labor's outstanding pioneers and innovators, unionizing hundreds of thousands of workers previously regarded as "unorganizable." Wobblies organized the first sit-down strike (at General Electric, Schenectady, 1906), the first major auto strike (6,000 Studebaker workers, Detroit, 1911), the first strike to shut down all three coalfields in Colorado (1927), and the first "no-fare" transit-workers' job-action (Cleveland, 1944). With their imaginative, colorful, and world-famous strikes and free-speech fights, the IWW wrote many of the brightest pages in the annals of working class emancipation.

Wobblies also made immense and invaluable contributions to workers' culture. All but a few of America's most popular labor songs are Wobbly songs. IWW cartoons have long been recognized as labor's finest and funniest.

The impact of the IWW has reverberated far beyond the ranks of organized labor. An important influence on the 1960s New Left, the Wobbly theory and practice of direct action, solidarity, and "class-war" humor have inspired several generations of civil rights and antiwar activists, and are a major source of ideas and inspiration for today's radicals. Indeed, virtually every movement seeking to "make this planet a good place to live" (to quote an old Wobbly slogan), has drawn on the IWW's incomparable experience.

Originally published in 1964 and long out of print, Rebel Voices remains by far the biggest and best source on IWW history, fiction, songs, art, and lore. This new edition includes 40 pages of additional material from the 1998 Charles H. Kerr edition from Fred Thompson and Franklin Rosemont, and a new preface by Wobbly organizer Daniel Gross.

Praise:

"Not even the doughtiest of capitalism's defenders can read these pages without understanding how much glory and nobility there was in the IWW story, and how much shame for the nation that treated the Wobblies so shabbily."  —New York Times Book Review, on the 1964 edition.

“The IWW blazed a path in industrial history and its influence is still felt today. Joyce Kornbluh has performed a valuable service to unionism by compiling this comprehensive anthology on the more militant side of labor history.”  Southwest Labor

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What Others are Saying

rebelRebel Voices: A Review
by William A. Pelz
Labor Studies Journal
June 2012 37: 236-237

With seditious humor and biting satire, Rebel Voices brings alive the revolutionary syndicalist challenge to both the capitalists and mainstream trade unionists. One need not agree with the arguments made in this book to find them thought provoking. Further, the book advances the claim that the work of the IWW has helped protect civil liberties. The IWW was a leader in the fight for free speech in an early-twentieth-century America, where verbalizing opposition to the status quo was all too often a criminal offense.

rebelStaughton Lynd reviews Rebel Voices
by Staughton Lynd
Industrial Worker
December 2011

It’s true. Whatever you thought you knew about the founding convention of the IWW in 1905, or the massacre of Wobblies on the Verona at Everett, Washington, or Joe Hill’s thoughts while awaiting execution, you will know more after encountering Rebel Voices. This is the most important book on the subject because in it countless rank-and-file Wobblies speak for themselves through the pamphlets, excerpts from IWW newspapers, cartoons, song sheets, and other written sources brought together at the Labadie collection in Ann Arbor. This is history from below, created by the working men and women who made that history.

 

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