Sunday, May 15, 2005

Community services conference and book shopping in Lawrence

I attended the annual Kansas AFL-CIO Community Services conference in Topeka on Thursday and Friday. There was lots of good information to bring back to our locals and central labor councils. For those not familiar, labor's community services programs are in large part done in cooperation with the United Way and date back to the WWII years. Traditionally, community services has had two dimensions. First, to connect union members with needs to appropriate community services. Second, to be a vehicle for union members to be of service to the community. In recent years, there is a new strategic dimension, to build the power and influence of the labor movement. The fifty-year old unin counselor program has evolved to the the Union Community Action Network with the goal of training a new generation of labor advocates both on the shop floor and in our communities.

A real highlight of the conference was a presentation on social security and the dangers of the Bush plan to privatize/phase out social security. A great job was done by two UMKC professors: Max Skidmore of the Political Science department and Stephanie Kelton of the economics department.

The conference wrapped up around noon on Friday so I made a side trip to Lawrence to have a visit with my friend David Smith of KU's sociology department.

It happened that Lawrence was in the middle of a downtown bicycle racewith lots streets blocked off and not much parking. I managed to find a place in Lawrence's downtown parking garage and make my way to the Dusty Bookshelf, a second-hand bookstore at 708 Mass. There is also a DB is Manhattan, which is the original, I think. The owners tried to open a store in Wichita's Oldtown, but it didn't work out.

I came away with some real finds: Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology; Out of the Sweatshops (a 1977 paperback history of American garment workers told by collecting contemporary reports); the two volumes of Julius Braunthal's history of the Socialist International; Theodore Draper's classic The Roots of American Communism; William O'Neill's A Better World: The Great Schism: Stalinsim and the American Intellectuals; 1960's labor history books by Thomas Brooks and Leon Litwack; Michael Wreszin's biography of Dwight Macdonald, A Rebel in Defense of Tradition.

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