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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Lawrence Rogin, November 2, 1975. Interview E-0013. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Working in labor education in the 1930s

Rogin outlines how he came to work for the Hosiery Workers Union in the South by the late 1930s. After pursuing a graduate degree in political science, Rogin became the education director for the Central Labor Union in Reading, Pennsylvania. Also, during the 1930s, Rogin was associated with the Brookwood Labor College in Katonah, New York. Through his work in labor education, Rogin made ties with labor organization in the South and the hosiery workers in particular. His comments reveal connections between various forces of labor organization during the 1930s, with an emphasis on the role of labor education in the movement.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Lawrence Rogin, November 2, 1975. Interview E-0013. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

And in November—well, it was earlier, I guess in the late summer—the Central Labor Union in Reading, Pennsylvania was looking for an education director. They had something there they called the Reading Labor College, which was sponsored by the Central Labor Union. And what it was was some classes which had very little labor meaning, and were taught by a teacher at the junior high school. This was a carry-over from education that was begun in around '20, '21, when there were a lot of so-called labor colleges that were sponsored by central labor unions all over the country. That one managed to last. And Jim Maurer, who was a former (M-a-u-r-e-r) president of the State Federation of Labor and a great believer in labor education, and a member of the board of Brookwood (I guess, was he chairman? could have been) … at any event, he was very influential in the Central Labor Union. They wanted an education director.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What was your dissertation? What was your field?
LAWRENCE ROGIN:
What was I going to do? I was working on (never finished) "Labor and Politics in Pennsylvania From 1918 (that's the end of the World War) Up Through To the New Deal."
WILLIAM FINGER:
To the present?
LAWRENCE ROGIN:
Well, it was the present; yes, it was '33, sure. But the New Deal would have made a cut-off point. And you had quite interesting things there: the Socialist movement was very strong among the miners, and there were some Republicans; and William B. Wilson and attempts to form a labor party in Philadelphia, and the Socialist party in Reading, and so on.
WILLIAM FINGER:
So you were in political science?
LAWRENCE ROGIN:
Political science, yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
So you went to Reading; took the job there?
LAWRENCE ROGIN:
Took the job there; worked there for a couple of years. And while I was working there I got a job on the newspaper, because money was running short at the Central Labor Union, so I had to work on the newspaper. Got to the constitution-writing convention of the Newspaper Guild, I believe when we wrote the constitution. And then Brookwood again: I went on the faculty of Brookwood more formally in '35, and was on the faculty for two years. And I was the last faculty guy to leave Brookwood when it closed up.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Is that right?
LAWRENCE ROGIN:
Yes.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What went on at Brookwood those last two years?
LAWRENCE ROGIN:
We had some great training; particularly the '35-'36 year we had a tremendous group of students. A high percentage of them ended up in the labor movement: a lot of them professionals, others staff positions. A lot of students.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Students from all over?
LAWRENCE ROGIN:
Well, heavily auto industry. '33 Roy Reuther was there, and Merlin Bishop. Merlin Bishop was the first education director of the U.A.W.; came back from Brookwood and he was education director. Both of them had been active in trying to build a union with the A.F.L. there. And then just because, I guess, Roy was there (my memory for dates doesn't work out), Walter and Victor on their way back from Russia stopped off there, and I met them there at that time.
WILLIAM FINGER:
It was kind of a gathering-place.
LAWRENCE ROGIN:
Gathering-place, but also we had some quite remarkable faculty: David Saposs was there in '33-'34—well, he was there the first year I was there, and left in '36; Joel Seidman was there; and Lazar Teper, who later became research director of the I.L.G., was there. And in general during that period (see, this was the period of the formation of C.I.O.) you'd get up for speeches, and arguments among the student body, and all kinds of things … you were kind of up on what was going on in the labor movement.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you ever have any contact with your kind of southern counterpoints, Highlander or Senator? 4 * Southern School for Workers? Commonwealth
LAWRENCE ROGIN:
Yes, Highlander and, to a more limited extent, Commonwealth. But I had more contact with Highlander when I went South for the … see, I really went South first for the Hosiery Workers' Union.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What about the Southern Summer School for Women Workers?
LAWRENCE ROGIN:
With them too when I was with Hosiery Workers'. We would have a conference there. We used to use Highlander for conferences, and we used to use the Southern Summer School for Women Workers for conferences when we'd be for the Hosiery Workers during that period.