The Working-Class Studies Association was first conceived in 2003, as part of planning for the regular conference of the Center for Working-Class Studies in Youngstown, Ohio. The Center was awarded a grant from the Ford Foundation to conduct “field building,” including creating an organization that would carry on and expand the Center’s work and allow it to focus on projects other than hosting biannual conferences. The idea of forming an organization was discussed during the conference, at a luncheon to which all conference attendees were invited. More than 50 people attended, and there was widespread agreement that we should move ahead with forming an organization.
Over the course of the next two years, Sherry Linkon gathered leaders in the field together for a series of discussions about creating an organization. Participants included Michele Fazio, Jamie Daniel, Jack Metzgar, John Russo, Paul Lauter, Kitty Krupat, Renny Christopher, Dorian Warren, Sandi Dahlberg, Tami Gold, and Michael Zweig. Lauter and Linkon volunteered to draft a constitution, using a template from another academic organization, and the larger group reviewed and revised it. The group also created a set of goals for the WCSA, aiming to balance a primary identity as an academic association with a strong commitment to activism and to the range of community-based and public activities, including the arts.
A kick-off event took place in 2004. That year the conference was held at the Center for the Study of Working-Class Life at Stony Brook University in New York with the first elections and formal establishment of the WCSA in 2005. Initial officers were as follows:
Sherry Linkon, President
Peter Rachleff, President-Elect
Jamie Daniel, Secretary
Michael Zweig, Treasurer
Tim Strangleman, Michele Fazio, Mary Romero, and Andrew Ross, at-large steering committee members