I arrived at Berkeley in 1975 with a strong interest in social theory. By the time I left, after the customary ten years, I much preferred labor history. One of the strengths and weaknesses of Berkeley's program was to nurture both interests without much regard for careerist considerations. After a three year layover at Syracuse University, I settled at UC San Diego, where the department has that same strength and weakness and, not coincidentally, a large enclave of Berkeley Ph.D.s.
I have retained my interest in the history of labor relations, slowly writing what will eventually be a trilogy. The first part focused on the role of trade union institutions in shaping factory politics (Between Craft and Class, 1988) and the second on the role of the state (Making American Industry Safe for Democracy, 1997). My current project takes on employers. In different ways, each of these applies my Berkeley-bred conviction that the best sociology is comparative history.
Hanging out in archives studying dead workers, bureaucrats, and employers keeps me some distance from contemporary labor struggles. Over the last several years, however, I have tried to follow the good example set by more activist mentors, colleagues, and family members. My modest participation in campus organizing efforts and in San Diego's Labor Academic Network has contributed more to my own education than to worker rights, but it rests the soul -- and helps me keep my head up as a Berkeley alumnus.