Professor of Management Victor Devinatz will deliver the University’s Distinguished Professorship lecture on Thursday, April 26, at 7 p.m. in the Bone Student Center Prairie Room. He will speak on The Crisis of U.S. Trade Unionism, and What Needs to Be Done.
Devinatz’s presentation will examine the decline in trade union density since its peak in the 1950s and the resulting erosion of labor’s collective bargaining power. He contends that current union troubles are the result of a shift to business unionism, which focuses mainly on contract negotiation and administration. Devinatz will outline an alternative model of trade unionism that includes a new relationship between rank-and-file union members and union officials and a reconceptualization of labor’s bargaining strategies.
Devinatz came to Illinois State University as an assistant professor in the Department of Management and Quantitative Methods in 1991. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in labor relations, employee relations and human resource management and serves as a departmental internship coordinator. He has pursued research from an interdisciplinary perspective on topics related to 20th century U.S. labor history, union organizing and current labor events. Much of his research incorporates ethnographic, oral history and archival research methodologies. Devinatz’s scholarly book, High-Tech Betrayal: Working and Organizing on the Shop Floor, was recognized as the first industrial ethnography to chronicle high-tech assembly work.
Devinatz received his master’s degree in labor studies from the University of Massachusetts and his Ph.D. in industrial relations from the University of Minnesota. Prior to receiving these degrees, he worked as assistant boycott organizer for the United Furniture Workers of America on the Indiana Desk strike and served as a rank-and-file union organizer for the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, while employed as an assembler and janitor in a Chicago area medical electronics company. Upon his termination from the medical electronics factory for union organizing, Devinatz worked as a drill press operator and general laborer at a plastics factory and was a member of the International Union of Allied Novelty and Production Workers before obtaining employment at a food-processing plant organized by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Working on a night shift cleaning food-processing machinery, he joined the reform faction known as Teamsters for a Democratic Union and became active in organizing around shop floor issues and contract negotiations.
Devinatz was awarded the Merl E. Reed Research Fellowship in Southern Labor History in 2003. In 2005, he won the Illinois State University Outstanding Researcher Award. He was named a Caterpillar Faculty Scholar in 1999 and 2004, and he received the College of Business Research Award in 1997, 2003 and 2010.
He has been widely interviewed concerning current labor and employment relations issues. His comments have appeared in a number of publications including The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), The Globe and Mail (Toronto), USA Today, the Bureau of National Affairs Daily Labor Report, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Detroit News and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.