2023 Labor Studies award recipients smiling and holding up solidarity fists

On Sunday, November 5th, nearly 300 students, faculty, and members of the labor community gathered in the Husky Union Building ballroom for the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies awards celebration. Each year, the Center extends its commitment to fostering the study and advancement of the labor movement by awarding thousands of dollars in scholarships and grants to dedicated scholars and activists. This year, the Center proudly allocated close to $70,000 in scholarships and fellowships to both graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Washington. 

Established in 1992, the Bridges Center emerged as a tribute to the legacy of Harry Bridges, the founding president of the ILWU. Its inception was the outcome of a grassroots fundraising initiative spearheaded by ILWU members and pensioners, setting it apart as a distinctive institution within a university landscape otherwise characterized by affluent donors. Aligned with the values of Harry Bridges and the ILWU, including pragmatic labor organizing, democratic unionism, principled anti-racism, and social justice, the Bridges Center advocates for the rights of working people and the exploration of their issues within higher education. The Center funds working-class students, facilitates classes on labor issues, and backs research initiatives conducted by faculty and students focusing on labor-related topics.

At the helm of the Bridges Center is Moon-Ho Jung, History Professor and the current occupant of the Harry Bridges Endowed Chair in Labor Studies. "We are at an exciting moment of growth at the Bridges Center. We are very grateful to State Senators Steve Conway, Bob Hasegawa, and Karen Keiser and many others on the Visiting Committee, along with April Sims and our supporters at the Washington State Labor Council, for their advocacy of Labor Studies.” says Jung. “The increased state support over the next two years will allow the Bridges Center to expand our capacity significantly.” In 2010, the Bridges Center took a crucial step in safeguarding and promoting the history of labor in the Pacific Northwest by establishing the Labor Archives of Washington. 

Several scholarships within the Bridges Center have been realized through the contributions of both current and retired members, as well as locals associated with the ILWU. Among these, the Martin and Anne Jugum Scholarship, the longest standing scholarship, pays tribute to the legacy of the late ILWU Local 19 leader, Martin "Jug" Jugum, and his wife Anne. Four undergraduate students were recipients of this esteemed award this year: Sunshine Cheng, a student in the UW’s Law, Societies, and Justice program working to build cross-movement solidarity, particularly around issues of racial, labor, economic, and disability justice; Helen Huang, a Chinese international student completing their undergraduate degree in History and Drama with a minor in Labor Studies, passionately active in struggles over women’s rights; Lupe Valtierra Prieto, an undergraduate student in Integrated Social Sciences, working in community-based efforts and organizing in the field of mental health; and Kels Cook,  an undergraduate student of Geography, organizing and advocating for access to reproductive healthcare. 

The Gundlach Scholarship, created in honor of the late labor activist and ILWU secretary, Jean Gundlach, and her brother and former UW Psychology Professor, Ralph Gundlach, was awarded to Anna Nguyen, a graduate student in Political Science, whose devotion to labor and community organizing led them to a focus on the study of labor and tenant unions. The Domingo-Viernes scholarship was founded through the efforts of the ILWU’s Marine Division, the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific (IBU), Region 37, honoring Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes, two inspiring Seattle labor leaders who fought for union democracy alongside Filipino cannery workers. This year’s scholarship recipient was Daniela Murguia, a graduate student in Education, who is working as an educator to further equitable environmental activism centered around supporting undocumented students and their families. The Frank Jenkins Jr. Fellowship was created by ILWU Local 19 to honor Jenkins, a founding member of the local and one of the first Black and Filipino longshoremen in Seattle. It was awarded to two PhD students: Jamelah Jacob, a PhD student in History, studying the history of Filipino American activism who is also involved in student organizing and student worker solidarity; and Soohyung Hur, a PhD student in Geography, who also leads the Bridges Center’s Building A Movement (BAM) Labor Internship program and serves as a head steward of the graduate student union UAW 4121. 

Research grants and Best Papers/Project prizes were also awarded to UW graduate students and faculty who are studying a wide range of labor issues: combating systemic racism and sexism in the trade industry; American foreign relations and how it shaped Asian diasporic communities; immigration status and how it restricts professional licensure in Washington; the history of the first white collar worker strike; the societal consequences of using A.I. and algorithmic hiring systems; and the historic effects of American capital investment on Jewish industry and agriculture in Palestine. 

Many members of the ILWU attended the banquet, including Alison Steichen, a current UW student and member of Local 19. Steichen was the recipient of the Domingo-Viernes scholarship in 2016 and is now working on a project titled “Women on the Waterfront”, recognizing the challenges the ILWU women face in the male-dominated longshore industry, as well as celebrating the progress they have fought so hard for. “The UW is a crown jewel of the Pacific Northwest— ranked one of the top 20 universities in the world. It is inspiring to have an institution of this caliber honor labor and the ILWU, and to truly value our members, their contributions, and their individual and collective experiences. I am extremely passionate about this project! I feel a deep responsibility to record the voices of these trailblazing women and show them the respect they deserve for making supreme sacrifices that paved the way for people like me,” says Steichen. 

The Robert Duggan Distinguished Supporter of Labor Studies Award, which recognizes individuals whose efforts have helped to establish the Harry Bridges Center, was posthumously awarded to ILWU Local 98 member Jon Halgren, who passed away earlier this year on January 11, 2023. Jon epitomized the generous, intergenerational spirit of the ILWU pensioners, and always had a friendly smile and welcoming approach to life. Jon and his mother Fern were at the forefront leading the campaign to fund the Harry Bridges Chair, cementing his loyalty and dedication to the Center. He never received widespread public acknowledgement of his contributions and support, and he preferred it that way. The Harry Bridges Center is proud to finally be able to recognize Jon’s selfless efforts and generosity, which made the continued work of the Center possible. 

Another major contributor to the ILWU’s history was the late Dr. Ron Magden, a labor historian and professor at Tacoma Community College who became an honorary member of the ILWU Local 23 Pensioners Club through his dedication in educating young workers on the union’s history. After his retirement from teaching, Dr. Ron began studying and collecting the records of Puget Sound’s waterfront workers, authoring several books and articles on the subject for more than 40 years. His work provided the basis for the multimedia web project titled ‘The Waterfront Workers History Project’; an archive sponsored by the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies. With the sponsorship of ILWU Local 19 and the ILWU Coast Longshore Division, Magden’s book, ‘Seattle’s Working Waterfront, 1884-Present', was recently updated and published posthumously by the Bridges Center.  Funds remaining from the book’s publication were used to create an endowment in Magden’s name, which will support students studying labor history at the University of Washington 

The final award announcement of the ceremony was the Distinguished Labor Studies Alumni Award, which recognizes former students who are making a difference by working to advance the labor movement. The award was presented to Eunice How, class of 2012, who has become one of the most recognizable figures in the local Seattle movement. She was first recognized as the inaugural recipient of the Gundlach Scholarship back in 2011 and has most recently joined the Bridges Center’s Visiting Committee, while continuing to support students through the BAM Internship and speaking in Labor Studies classes at the University of Washington. 

This annual celebration of labor through scholarships, internships, classes and research projects, is an ever-growing facet of higher education at UW. Through the constant support of the ILWU, local unions, and the members of the Visiting Committee, Standing Committee, Bridges Chairs, Bridges staff, and the Labor Archives team, the Center is meeting the challenges of bringing the labor movement into a new era.