Feminism and the Labor Movement: Intersections, Conflicts, and the Future

Endorsed by the Labor and Working-Class History Association (LAWCHA) and Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600–2000

Friday, April 16, 2021, 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: African American; Gender and Sexuality; Labor and Working-Class


In this roundtable, we will bring together scholars—Eileen Boris, Emily Twarog, and Keona Ervin—and community leaders—Latisa Kindred, Sheerine Alemzadeh, and Karen Kent—to discuss both the historical and present-day challenges of feminism in the context of the labor movement.

Session Participants

Chair: Eileen Boris, University of California, Santa Barbara
The Hull Professor and Distinguished Professor of Feminist Studies and Distinguished Professor of History, Black Studies, and Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Eileen Boris writes on the home as a workplace--on domestic, industrial, care, and mother workers—and on racialized gender and the state. Her books include the prize-winning monographs Home to Work: Motherhood and the Politics of Industrial Homework in the United States [Cambridge University Press, 1994] and Caring for America: Home Health Workers in the Shadow of the Welfare State, co-authored with Jennifer Klein, (Oxford University Press, 2012, 2015), which was the basis for a brief to the Supreme Court in Harris v. Quinn. She is the co-editor, with Rhacel Parreñas, of Intimate Labors: Cultures, Technologies, and the Politics of Care (Stanford University Press, 2010) and, with Dorothea Hoehtker and Susan Zimmermann, Women’s ILO: Transnational Networks, Global Labor Standards, and Gender Equity (Brill and ILO, 2018). Her latest book is Making the Woman Worker: Precarious Labor and the Fight for Global Standards, 1919-2019 (Oxford, 2019). Her public writings have appeared in New York Times, The American Prospect, Time, the Nation, Al-Jazeera America, Huffington Post, New Labor Forum, Salon, Dissent, and Labor Notes. She is the President of the International Federation for Research in Women’s History. She has held the Bicentennial Chair in American Studies at the University of Helsinki and visiting professorships at Paris VII, the University of Melbourne, Tokyo Christian Women’s University, and University of Toulouse. She was PI for “Working at Living: The Social Relations of Precarity,” for “Enforcement Strategies for Empowerment: Models for the California Domestic Worker Bill of Rights,” and “The Labor of Care.” Her own articles have appeared in JAH, Signs, Feminist Studies, Journal of Women’s History, Journal of Policy History, Labor, ILWCH, and numerous collections. She has served on the executive boards of LAWCHA and the Social Science History Association and on prize and other committees for the OAH, American Studies Association, Social Science History Association, AHA, and Berkshire Conference. Currently she is on the editorial committee of both Labor: Studies in Working-Class History and Gender and History, the board of Journal of Policy History, and the consultant board of Feminist Studies. She has received the Distinguished Service Award from LAWCHA (2017) and the Rachel Fuchs Memorial Award from the Coordinating Council for Women in History for Mentoring LGBTQ/Women (2019). Her current project explores migrant domestic workers and the continuum between free and unfree labor through struggles to regulate labor traffickers after WWII. She works with home care and domestic worker unions.

Panelist: Sheerine Alemzadeh, Healing to Action
As the co-founder and co-director of Healing to Action, Sheerine collaborates with worker leaders across Chicago to ignite innovative, community-sustained strategies to address the endemic rates of gender-based violence in low-wage workplaces and neighborhoods. Led by the voices of workers and survivors, she writes, teaches, educates, and organizes to create safe, just workplaces and stable economic futures for people of all genders. Her career has focused on building bridges between social movements, applying intersectional approaches to human rights activism, and promoting shared leadership as a path to sustained social progress. An expert on the intersecting
inequalities of economic injustice and gender-based violence, she has forged strategic partnerships in Chicago and nationally to develop coordinated, community-based responses to gender-based violence against low wage workers.

In 2011, Sheerine received the Skadden Fellowship to pilot a project focused on achieving workplace justice for survivors of sexual violence. In addition to litigating sexual harassment, unemployment, sexual assault, and civil rights cases, she co-founded the Coalition Against Workplace Sexual Violence, a collaboration between rape crisis agencies, civil rights organizations, workers centers, and government agencies. She has trained over 1,000 community stakeholders on responding to gender-based violence. Healing to Action formed out of the Coalition’s work, after Sheerine and her cofounder, Karla Altmayer, identified a clear need for workers’ voices to lead cross-movement responses to gender-based violence in working poor communities.

Sheerine has published on issues surrounding gender-based violence and labor inequality in numerous legal and media publications, including the New York University Journal of Law & Social Change, the Michigan Journal of Gender & the Law, the Wisconsin Journal of Gender, Law & Society, the Huffington Post, Role Reboot, the Chicago Reporter, Crain’s Chicago, and Labor Notes. A SheSource Expert for the Women’s Media Center, she has been quoted in Vox, the Chicago Reader, the Washington Post, Teen Vogue, and the Guardian. Sheerine also co-teaches a seminar on international women’s human rights at Northwestern University Law School, and clerked for the Honorable Ann Claire Williams on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

The proud daughter of Iranian immigrants, Sheerine grew up in Virginia and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in International Politics, with a minor in women’s studies. She went on to receive her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

Panelist: Keona Ervin, University of Missouri
Keona K. Ervin is Associate Professor of History at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Ervin is the author of the award-winning Gateway to Equality: Black Women and the Struggle for Economic Justice in St. Louis. A recipient of the Career Enhancement Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, she has published articles and reviews in International Labor and Working-Class History, Journal of Civil and Human Rights, Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture and Society, New Labor Forum, Los Angeles Review of Books, Labor: Studies in Working-Class History, Journal of Southern History, and Journal of American Ethnic History. Ervin is currently writing a history of Black women and the American labor movement.

Panelist: Karen Kent, UNITE HERE Local 1
In June 2013 Karen Kent was installed as President of UNITE HERE Local 1, Chicago’s hospitality workers union. She is the first woman in the century-long history of Local 1 to be elected President.

Karen got her start in the hospitality industry more than 20 years ago, working as a server at various restaurants and hotels across the country. In the late 1980s, as a banquet server and union committee at the Holiday Inn in Palo Alto, California, she began organizing the union. Since that time, Karen has led campaigns with UNITE HERE across the country in California, Las Vegas, New York City, Dallas, Chicago and beyond. Before serving as President, she was elected Executive Vice President of Local 1 in 2007.

During her tenure with Local 1, Karen has played a key role in leading the transformation of Local 1 into a dynamic organization that has achieved significant victories on behalf of working people in Chicago. In the last decade, Local 1 has organized thousands of new workers in to the union and doubled wages for housekeepers and other hotel workers in Chicago’s hospitality industry.

Panelist: Latisa Kindred, Chicago Teachers Union/IBEW Local 134
Latisa Kindred is a Career and Technical Education (CTE) instructor at Simeon Career Academy High School in Chicago, IL, where she teaches Electricity. She successfully completed her apprenticeship with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local #134 in Chicago, and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Workforce Education Development from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. In 2007, she began teaching the only high school Electricity program in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system at Simeon, which is the largest CTE school in the Chicago Public Schools system. She transformed Simeon's Electricity shop. Today, it serves as preparation for the post-secondary options offered in the Electrical/Construction industries. She developed two and three-year high school Electricity course syllabi for CPS, and works continuously to develop course work that supports her student’s needs. She has introduced countless students to opportunities offered by Local #134. Her mission to prepare youth for the electrical construction industry has been fulfilled; her former students include IBEW Local #134 Trainees, Apprentices, a Project Manager, and Junior Electrical Estimator, in addition to those who pursued careers in other industries.

In June of 2014, Latisa attended the Midwest School for Women Workers in Champaign-Urbana, Il, which sparked a passion for Women’s Labor Leadership and Labor Education. Since that time, she has attended the Midwest School, the Regina V. Polk Women’s Labor Leadership Conference in 2016, the AFL-CIO’s Women’s Global Leadership program in 2017, and the Polk Women and Power School in 2019. She has also led workshops at the Midwest School in 2015 and 2016, the Women Build Nations Conference in 2015 and 2016, the Labor and Research Action Network in 2016, the United Association for Labor Leadership in 2016, and was chosen to serve as a Teacher in Training at the Polk Conference in 2018.
In recent years, Latisa expanded her teaching by working as a labor educator and trainer. Since attending the Midwest School for Women Workers (MSWW) for the first time in 2014, Latisa has co-presented on varying subjects at MSWW, Women Build Nations, the Labor Research Action Network (LRAN) Conference, and the Regina V. Polk Women’s Labor Leadership Conference.

Latisa serves on several boards, including the Chicago Women in Trades Board of Directors, the DePaul University Labor Education Center Advisory Council, and the Regina V. Polk Advisory Board.

Latisa was born in Altgeld Gardens, a housing project on the far southside of Chicago. She spent her school aged years in Waukegan, Il, a far north suburb of Chicago. Her varied experiences in both communities nurtured and cultivated her activism. She served as Simeon’s school delegate to the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), and in their 2012 strike, organized the school’s picket line. She also served on the joint board between CTU and the CPS CTE department, and participated in contract bargaining for Article 18 of the CTU contract, which covers Career and Technical Education. Dedicated to preparing minorities and women for the building trades, Latisa has also taught Chicago Women in Trades Technical Opportunities Program (TOP). Today, she serves as Treasurer for The Sisters of IBEW Local #134, the union’s women’s committee, and on the Chicago Women in Trades Board of Directors. She currently lives on Chicago’s southside with her high-spirited daughter, who feels right at home at marches and rallies. She enjoys traveling in her free time.

Panelist: Emily E. LB. Twarog, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Emily E. LB. Twarog is an Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the School of Labor and Employment Relations. She is also the co-director of the Regina V. Polk Women’s Labor Leadership Conference. Emily is the author of Politics of the Pantry: Food, Housewives, and Consumer Protest in 20th Century America published by Oxford University Press in 2017. She is also the author of several articles on women’s labor leadership. Emily is currently an ACLS Burkhardt Fellow (2019-2020) at the Newberry Library and is working on a book about the history of sexual harassment resistance in the service sector between 1936-2018.