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Hard Work Is Not Enough: Gender and Racial Inequality in an Urban Workspace

April 12, 201812:00 pm1:30 pm


In this talk, Professor Davis will discuss African American women’s experiences as bus operators in a San Francisco Bay Area transit firm from 1974-1989, during the height of affirmative action hiring. Through a series of interviews with these transit operators alongside correspondence between management and union leaders, grievance and arbitration data, as well as litigation against the firm, she traces the gradual demise of job security within this SF Bay Area transit company that once led the nation in offering its transit operators good wages and benefits. The findings suggest that transit operating became increasingly stressful throughout the period of study due to declining work conditions and the arbitrary implementation of institutional strategies designed to discipline and eliminate workers deemed undesirable.

Catherine Fisk, of the UC Berkeley School of Law, will respond to the talk.

This event is sponsored by the Center for Research on Social Change and co-sponsored by the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, the Center for the Study of Law & Society, and the UC Berkeley Sociology Department.

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Katrinell Davis is Associate Professor of Sociology at Florida State University. She is a social change scholar inspired by the struggles of working class people in urban areas who contend with extraordinary socioeconomic constraints, despite their best efforts. Through her teaching and scholarship, Davis explores how racial, gender and class biases as well as institutional constraints shape the accessibility of quality neighborhood resources and how social groups and/or communities navigate existing hurdles. Her recent book, Hard Work is Not Enough (UNC Press 2017), captures how the workplace experiences of African American women who secured access to well-paying bus operating positions in the 1970s were undermined by disparate employment practices and declines in job quality. Davis’ new work focuses on the origins and health consequences of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Davis received her PhD in Sociology from UC Berkeley, where she was a Graduate Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues.
Catherine Fisk is the Barbara Nachtrieb Armstrong Professor of Law at Berkeley. She teaches Labor Law, Employment Law, and Employment Discrimination, along with Civil Procedure, First Amendment, and Legal Profession. Fisk is the author of five books and scores of articles. Her recent books include Writing for Hire: Unions, Hollywood, and Madison Avenue (Harvard University Press 2016), and two casebooks: Labor Law in the Contemporary Workplace (2d ed. West, 2014) and The Legal Profession (West 2014). She is also the author of Working Knowledge: Employee Innovation and the Rise of Corporate Intellectual Property, 1800-1930 (UNC Press 2009). Fisk works with students on pro bono litigation, principally writing briefs in federal and state appellate courts on labor and employment discrimination issues, and her pro bono and public service work also includes serving on boards of, and providing advice to, numerous nonprofit worker organizations.