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We the People: Public Workers in Service of America

General Programming

dateMarch 22–23, 2019 location The Heyman Center, Columbia University
  • Christopher Florio
Statue of man grabbing resistant horse by reins

Organized by Christopher Florio (SOF 2016-19), this symposium on the history of public work in modern America gathered established and early-career scholars working to recover the history of public work, a crucial sector that has indelibly shaped both American labor and the American state. The symposium was the first of its kind -- the first time historians studying public workers exclusively gathered together to collaborate, share findings, and demarcate the state of the field. It is an opportune moment. The history of public workers sheds light on some of today’s most relevant social and political issues: the renewed prominence of teachers’ unions, stagnant American wages and the disappearance of the vaunted middle class, the stubborn persistence of racial and gender discrimination, and the destructive results of the ongoing disinvestment in government and social infrastructure. Public workers are among the most organized and yet, most threatened of workers in the contemporary United States. The goal of this symposium was to provide the groundwork for a subsequent edited volume that will shape how both historians and the public at large understand, recognize, and engage public work in the United States.

  • Organizer Christopher Florio Lecturer in History Columbia University