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Grant number: FT-254240-17

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Joseph Eugene Hower
Southwestern University (Georgetown, TX 78626)

Jerry Wurf (1919-1981) and the Rise of Public Sector Unions in Postwar America

A book-length study of public sector unionism in the post-WWII United States, focusing on Jerry Wurf (1919-1981), a leader in the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union.

My book explores the significance of public sector labor unions to broader transformations in American politics and society during the second half of the twentieth century through a social biography of Jerry Wurf (1919-1981). Building on recent work that looks to the 1970s as the “critical decade” in the postwar era, I show how the growing size, power, and visibility of public sector unions bolstered the ranks of a stagnating labor movement while transforming popular perceptions of organized labor; it created new and powerful constituencies for government programs while forever altering the politics of taxes and public services; it provided an effective vehicle for African Americans and women to secure dignity and equity at the public workplace while undermining the status and security of public employment; and it lent crucial support to a liberalism shaken by Vietnam and the fiscal crisis while inadvertently facilitating the success of Reagan-era conservatism.

Project fields:
Labor History; U.S. History; Urban History

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

Total amounts:
$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2017 – 7/31/2017