Class Matters Workshops

Download this brochure for more information on Class Matters workshops.

If you're interested in hosting a workshop, please click here for a brochure, or contact me about booking an event.

Order Class Matters

Class Matters book cover

Order Class Matters: Cross-Class Alliance Building for Middle-Class Activists by Betsy Leondar-Wright (New Society Publishers, 2005).

Press Coverage of CM

Classist Comments

What's the most classist thing you ever heard someone say?

(I'm not talking about someone like Bill O'Reilly or your right-wing uncle. More specifically, what's the most classist thing you ever heard a liberal or progressive person say?)

Read five interviewees' answers — and my own.

Class and Other Identities

How do you experience class differently because of your race, ethnic group, religion, gender, age, or other identity? What class dynamics do you notice within your identity groups?

Here's how a few visitors answered those questions:

And answers from the Class Matters book:

Class and Other Identities

White Male Labor Activists

I started working to support my family as a drum wrestler in a Teamster represented bulk plant when I was 16 years old. I came from a thoroughlly white, Catholic and most importantly working class neighborhood in Chicago. For almost all of us there were four defining social institutions: the family, the Church, the union and the Democratic party. I later returned to high school and then attended college on an athletic scholarship. This was my first extended exposure to middle class people. It was a safe exposure because we jocks lived in our own primarily working class ghetto where the norms of the old neighborhood held sway — community, trust, standding by your own people and being willing to fight — both intellectually and physically-when challenged. This changed when I decided, with much enccouraemnt from two of my professors-one a Jesuit, the other a GI Bill product- to become a scholar. Grad school was the first time that I was socially alone and exposed to the contempt for working people that pervaded an elite private university and the social milieux which produced its faculty, its students and the surrounding community. This hostility ranged from the serious such as "why are all Catholics racists?" to the banal "why don't you part your hair?" I eventually left the academy because this was not the exception but the norm; as true at a mass commuter school where I taught to a private liberal arts college where I also taught.

The last 20 years I have been working as an organizer for a large international union that organizes both professional and working class employees. Within the union staff, I have observed and experienced the same divide and sense of being an outsider. Most of the organizers be they male or female, black, Latino, or white are from working class backgrounds often the first or only college graduate in their family. (Several are not college graduates.) The professional staff are for the most part from upper middle class backgrounds. I find the same sense of being an outsider in staff meetings, unless enough organizers are present to form and fight for our own space. The biggest difference I find is in the language of the working class and the middle class. Working people use "we" much more often when making an argument about what a group should do, while middle class people more frequently start with 'I". As more middle class professional become proletarianized it is going to be important for those of us from the working class to teach the language of class. It is the hardest and most satisfying thing I confront in my work.

— Rich Klimmer

[Are you] looking at the usurpation of workers leadership role in many local unions (particularly janitors locals) of the supposedly progressive SEIU — where the trend is to impose trusteeships run by college-educated outside staffers and then enable these non-members to become the new elected officers of the local instead of developing the leadership potential of indigenous working members — a very dramatic example of "middle-class activist" domination of what are supposed to be workers' organizations. ...

— Steve Early