Working Relationships: A Labor-Centric History of the U.S. Public Relations Profession
Scholars have written histories of public relations. Scholars have written histories of labor. Scholars had yet to bring the two histories into conversation with one another, that is until Patricia Curtin, professor at the University of Oregon, started her latest book project. Dr. Curtin’s research illustrates the many connections between public relations and American labor in the early twentieth century.
Whereas capital had its public relations gurus, such as Ivy Lee, so too did the labor movement, with Mother Jones and the IWW leading the way. The struggle for control over firms, economic resources, and business management pivoted, at least in part, on public opinion. Neither capital nor labor could afford to lose the opportunity to cultivate public support, and both sides went at it with gusto. Over the long term, capital had the upper hand. But successful and popular unionization efforts in the twenty-first century, such as that organized by Starbucks workers, may indicate a turning tide in the story.
In support of her work, professor Curtin received funding from the Center for the History of Business, Technology, & Society at the Hagley Museum & Library.