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Almost exactly thirty-one years ago, Los Angeles was burning as several days of civil unrest erupted in the wake of the acquittal of the police officers who had brutally beaten Rodney King. It was not just an impulsive uprising fueled by rage at police brutality but a reflection of many years, if not decades, of a simmering urban crisis in which social disinvestment, deindustrialization, and deep segregation turned the city into an economically and racially polarized landscape, with the police serving as chief enforcers of a brutal social hierarchy. In this episode, we talk about working-class Los Angeles before and after the civil unrest of 1992—and how the city’s labor movement reflects and grapples with the scars of historical injustice.
The late Mike Davis examined the racial, cultural, and political divisions of Los Angeles in his seminal work on the city, City of Quartz. We revisit that text and the events of 1992 with Tobias Higbie, associate director of UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, and Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center, to discuss how the city’s structural inequities continue to shape its labor struggles in sectors from the classrooms to the docks.
In other news, we look at the Hollywood writers’ strike, teachers’ strikes across England with Vik Chechi-Ribeiro of NEU Manchester, African tech workers organizing, and South Asian Americans mobilizing against caste discrimination with Karthikeyan Shanmugam of the Ambedkar King Study Circle.
Thank you for listening to our 265th episode! If you like the show, you can support us on Patreon with a monthly contribution, at the level that best suits you.
This season of Belabored is supported in part by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.
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Daniel Arkin, Hollywood writers go on strike after contract negotiations fail, NBC
Sakshi Venkatraman, California is one step closer to banning caste-based discrimination, NBC
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Kent Wong, Director, UCLA Labor Center
Tobias Higbie, Associate Director, UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment
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