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In June 1979 longtime union singer, songwriter and educator Joe Glazer invited fourteen labor musicians to a three-day gathering at the George Meany Center for Labor Studies in Silver Spring, MD (now the National Labor College). Thus began the annual Great Labor Arts Exchange (GLAE), which continues to be one of the core engines of our activities. GLAE has grown to include many different forms of labor arts and culture. In addition to the many rank-and-filers and union staff, participants have included singers Utah Phillips, Pete Seeger, Hazel Dickens, Baldemar Valesquez, and Bernice Johnson Reagon; artist Ralph Fasanella; cartoonists Gary Huck and Mike Konopacki; muralists Kathleen Farrell and Mike Alewitz; photographer Earl Dotter; and poets Chris Llewellyn and Professor Louie.
The Labor Heritage Foundation (LHF) was founded in 1983, and incorporated in 1984, as a result of inspiration of the GLAE gatherings, by Joe Glazer, Joe Uehlein, and Saul Schniderman. They brought together that small committed group of labor leaders, artists, and activists to build on a growing network of people sharing a passion for the labor movement. What began as a labor arts exchange has grown into a strong and vibrant national community organization where artists, activists, and organizers could share music, art, and performance works that speak to their experiences, vision, and work for and in the labor movement.
LHF works to preserve and promote knowledge of the cultural heritage of the American worker through the arts, including music, poetry, written works, theatre, and artistic works; and conducts historical research through written and oral histories. Our mission is to strengthen the labor movement through the use of music and arts. Using creative organizing methods, artistic opportunities, and cultural activities we are the “synergy, heart, and soul” that brings the passion for equality, fair labor standards and practices, and a just society together in the labor movement.
Since 1983 the organization has grown; LHF programs and affiliates include:
- LHF Catalogue- print and online catalogue of music, film, theatre, books, posters, buttons, and note cards related to the labor movement , peace, justice, equality, civil rights, and labor history and culture
- The Great Labor Arts Exchange -an annual conference and gathering that promotes new and renewed labor arts and culture
- The Conference on Creative Organizing -an intense training on expanding organizers, artists, and leaders artistic and creative skills in organizing
- LHF houses archival information on American Labor landmarks and produces the companion book, Inventory of American Labor Landmarks
- The Joe Hill Award, honoring leaders and artists who have contributed to the successful integration of arts and culture in the labor movement. Given every year at the Great Labor Arts Exchange is awarded to persons based on their dedication, participation, and promotion of labor, labor arts, culture, organizing, and/or history.
- The John L. Handcox Scholarship Fund- encourages the promotion of a movement that is multi-ethnic, multi racial, and provides for a diversity of activities by providing opportunities for organizers, artists, and activists of color to participate in the labor movement via The Great Labor Arts Exchange and the Conference on Creative Organizing
- Parent organization for the District of Columbia Labor Chorus (DC Labor Chorus)
- Sponsor of Culture Works Collective- Dedicated to integrating art and activism in ways that help unite and inspire people to achieve progressive change
- “Mothership” for the Western Workers Labor Heritage Festival- given annually during the Rev.Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, national holiday weekend.
LHF also supports regional arts exchanges, provides support for creative organizing activities, maintains a catalogue of books, music, film, buttons, posters, and note cards that support the educational efforts of LHF, items available by mail order and in our online catalogue.
LHF also works to maintain a network of activists, artists, and leaders, who perform, speak on relevant issues, provide trainings, and/or produce materials useful for the promotion of the history, culture, and importance of the American Labor movement and its current progressive activities and historical accomplishments.
LHF over the years has produced two books, five booklets of labor song parodies, one recording (We Just Come to Work Here, We Don’t Come to Die), concerts, and workshop presentations. We have inspired, encouraged, and sent representatives to regional exchanges, conferences and labor festivals, developed a database of labor artists and prepared a Directory of Cultural Resources.
LHF continues to grow and improve. For more information on how you can volunteer with LHF, become an intern, attend one of our programs or conferences, get artists, trainers or speakers for your events/programs, or to learn more about us email our Executive Director, Elise Bryant at firstname.lastname@example.org, use our Contact Us form, or call 202-639-6204.
We invite you to support the ongoing work and efforts of LHF by joining us at one of our events, purchasing items from our catalogue or becoming a donor (gifts are tax deductible).