Steve Lopez (1991)

Assistant Professor of Sociology, The Ohio State University

After growing up in Newfoundland and attending college in Ohio, I went to Berkeley in fall 1991 because driving to California sounded more exciting than driving up the road to Toronto.

I'd worked my way through school: bussing tables, driving a delivery truck, digging ditches, waiting tables. I did not know what I wanted to do in life, but I liked reading books and hated working. Also, I had a tee-shirt that said 'capitalism sucks' in Russian and I thought this shirt would be more relevant in the 1990s than it had been in the 1980s.

As a strategy for avoiding work I decided to study it. In Kim Voss's industrial sociology seminar I wrote what would become my first published paper, on route sales work. I put it in Burawoy's box thinking he might get back to me in a month or two, and he woke me up the next morning at an unreasonable hour to tell me we had to talk.

Ten years later, thanks mostly to Burawoy, I'm my first year as an assistant professor of sociology at The Ohio State University. My first book, Re-Organizing the Rust-Belt, is forthcoming from UC Press. It's based on my dissertation, a participant observation study of SEIU nursing home organizing in southwestern Pennsylvania. In the last two years, I've worked as a housekeeper and an activity aide in several nursing homes, and I want to get myself certified as a nurses' aide. It occurs to me, however, that for someone who originally sought to avoid physical labor, I'll be doing quite a bit of it in the years to come.

Perhaps my next project should be about pro hockey scouts instead.

Dissertation Title: 
Reorganizing the Rust Belt: Social Movement Unionism and the SEIU in Pennsylvania
Dissertation Book Title: 
Reorganizing the Rust Belt: An Inside Study of the American Labor Movement