Sept. 2016 Advocate: New history of California labor


New history of California labor authored by former CSM instructor and AFT 1493 staffer

by Dan Kaplan, AFT 1493 Executive Secretary

fredglass-webIn the early 1980s Fred Glass (photo left) was a part-time faculty member at CSM, working as an instructional designer in the technology division. He next became the first Executive Secretary of AFT Local 1493 in 1984, and then, in 1989, he was hired by the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) to be their Communications Director, a position that he still holds today.


While working for the CFT, in the late 1990s, Fred made the documentary film, Golden Lands, Working Hands, on California labor history, and since that time he has taught labor history classes at City College of San Francisco. This summer he completed a major work, From Mission to Microchip: A History of the California Labor Movement, a book that he tells the reader took him 25 years to complete given that he worked on it mainly during his summer vacations. What perseverance!

missionmicrochip-webEven though it is published by the University of California Press, the 544 page book (including bibliography) doesn’t read like an academic text. Rather it reads like a riveting narrative of both the past and present California labor movement, with the past truly informing the current moment in California history. Looking at the “Sources” at the end of the work, it seems that Fred has read almost every book and article that has been published related to California labor history.

What is especially appealing is the language and the vocabulary that Fred uses to tell his story. It is the language and vocabulary of a sophisticated class analysis that is employed to tell the history of the labor struggles that make California the place it is today.

All faculty would benefit by reading this magnificent work of history, no matter what particular discipline you teach. To be an informed citizen requires some knowledge of history, and you can do no better than to acquire that knowledge by reading this fine book.

“It took work to create California. Fred Glass now chronicles that epic of labor in a masterful narrative that will in short order establish itself as one of the best—and certainly the most up-to-date—histories of the labor movement in California.” – Kevin Starr, USC professor and author of Americans and the California Dream, a five-volume history of California.

If you would like to purchase the book, order it on the UC Press website (enter 16M4197 for a 30% discount).  If you wish to consider adopting the book for a course, you can order an examination copy from the publisher.