When 100,000 protesters occupied the Wisconsin State Capitol in early 2011 in an attempt to thwart Governor Scott Walker’s bill revoking the rights of public sector employees, a group of labor researchers and scholars were motivated to coordinate their efforts to better serve the interests of the working class.
“We knew we needed academics with credibility saying that what was happening with Wisconsin’s attack on unions was not right,” says Erin Johansson, who at the time was a researcher for the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group American Rights at Work.
Johansson believes academics bring a level of trustworthiness into public debates that is crucial to the labor movement. After the Wisconsin uprising, she and others felt there needed to be a central hub to connect scholars and the movement. “That kind of coordination is really critical when we lack the resources that our opponents have,” she says, noting the influence of well-funded right-wing think tanks.
The result was the creation of the Labor Research and Action Network (LRAN), an open, volunteer-driven forum to match academics with campaigners, share skills, design trainings, and award research grants to emerging scholars.
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