3:00 pm to 5:00 pm
“In the Driver’s Seat: Black Power Unionism and Chicago’s Bus Drivers”
Erik S. Gellman, Roosevelt University
In 1968 black bus drivers initiated two wildcat strikes that crippled Chicago’s public transportation. This paper explains why Concerned Transit Workers went out on strike, what they accomplished, and how their struggles change our understanding of the convergence of black activism and the labor movement during the same year that the West Side riots and Democratic National Convention made Chicago an international spectacle of protest. These drivers and their allies, this paper contends, tried to democratize their union as part of a vision of Black Power unionism that also sought the transformation of the larger racial power structure of the city of Chicago.
Commentators: Jeffrey Helgeson, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Lionel Kimble, Chicago State University