Jon Shelton, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay | Newberry

Jon Shelton, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay

Friday, March 6, 2015



Center for American History and Culture Programs
Labor History Seminar

“Dropping Dead: Teachers, the New York City Fiscal Crisis, and Austerity”
Jon Shelton, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay

This paper argues that New York City’s workers-especially its teachers-were central in restructuring the city’s system of social democracy during the fiscal crisis of 1975. Though the budget problems mostly resulted from broader structural trends, the cacophonous public debate in New York focused in large part on defining the city’s “unproductive” citizens: discursively linking those who received welfare benefits and the supposedly excessive public sector workforce. Though unionized public employees took action to defend themselves from the most draconian cuts to spending, their actions precipitated criticism that characterized their behavior as selfishly defending their own interests at the expense of the city, thus ultimately helping to undermine the ideological underpinnings of labor-liberalism in New York.
Respondents: Jerald Podair, Lawrence University; Elizabeth Todd-Breland, University of Illinois at Chicago

Cost and Registration Information 

Scholl Center Seminar papers are pre-circulated electronically.  For a copy of the paper, email the Scholl Center at  Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.