WOERRC Research Seminar: Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area with Professor Peter Cole

This research seminar is hosted by the Work Organisation and Employment Relations Research Centre (WOERRC) part of the division of Work, Employment, People and Organisation (WEPO) at Sheffield University Management School


Dockworkers have power. Often missed in commentary on today's globalizing economy, workers in the world’s ports can harness their role, at a strategic choke point, to promote their labor rights and social justice causes. Cole brings such overlooked experiences to light in a comparative study of Durban, South Africa, and the San Francisco Bay Area, California. His research reveals how unions effected lasting change in some of the most far-reaching struggles of modern times. First, dockworkers in each city drew on longstanding radical traditions to promote racial equality. Second, they persevered when a new technology--container ships--sent a shockwave of layoffs through the industry. Finally, their commitment to black internationalism and leftist politics sparked transnational work stoppages to protest apartheid and authoritarianism. Dockworker Power brings to light surprising parallels in the experiences of dockers half a world away from each other. It also offers a new perspective on how workers can change their conditions and world.


Peter Cole is a professor of history at Western Illinois University (USA) and a Research Associate in the Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP) at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. He holds a BA from Columbia University and PhD in history from Georgetown University. He is the author of Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area (University of Illinois Press, 2018) and Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia (University of Illinois Press, 2007). He co-edited Wobblies of the World: A Global History of the IWW (Pluto Press, 2017) and edited Ben Fletcher: The Life& Times of a Black Wobbly (Charles H. Kerr Press, 2007). He has written many scholarly articles and book chapters, but also published dozens of non-academic essays in the Washington Post, TIME, San Francisco Chronicle, Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg), Africa Is A Country, Jacobin, In These Times, and more. He tweets from @ProfPeterCole


Meeting Rooms 1 & 2, Level D, Sheffield University Management School


  • 16.30 - 17.00 Refreshments

  • 17.00 - 18.00 Seminar with Q&A

Event Details

When: May 14, 2019 at 4:30pm—6:00pm

Where: Conduit Road, Sheffield, S10 1FL

Type: Alumni, Student, Business

Book Event