William Jones

Position title: Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity Fellow (2010-2011)

History, UW-Madison

Portrait image of William Jones laughing

The New Color of Class: Race and Public Service Work in the Post-Industrial United States

This project complicates a common narrative of the rise and fall of the working-class by shifting our attention from mostly white industrial workers to the largely African American and immigrant maids and janitors, non-professional health care workers, garbage collectors, and other public service employees who composed the fastest growing employment sector in the United States following the Second World War. While increased demand for public services was driven by New Deal collective bargaining laws and other labor protections that empowered industrial workers to demand better wages and benefits from their employers, those same protections were denied to the workers who provided those services. Focusing on efforts to unionize and win legal protections for low-wage public service workers, I reveal how that “new working-class” became an important economic and political force in American cities during the 1960s and 1970s and laid the basis for a broader renewal of organized labor in the late 20th century.

Will Jones is an Associate Professor of History at UW Madison. He is a specialist on the United States Since 1945, and his research focuses on the intersecting histories of race and labor. He is the author of The Tribe of Black Ulysses: African American Lumber Workers in the Jim Crow South, and his articles have appeared in journals including Labor, The Journal of Urban History and The Nation. In addition to The New Color of Class, he is writing a book on the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.