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Craig Leedham currently resides in San Diego, CA. Craig's professional career spans work in academic research and sociology, as well as professional experience in applied research and organized labor. Craig Leedham co-authored three editions of a leading undergraduate textbook in sociology, as well as applying his academic interests in social movements and social research in a number of professional contexts that include work with state government in Washington, two research universities (Colorado State University and Arizona State University), and numerous education labor associations.
Craig Leedham decided to apply his academic interests and experiences in the labor movement. Following a brief stint as a researcher with the Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse in Washington State, and then as the Director of Institutional Research with the Graduate College at Arizona State University, Craig Leedham began working as an advocate and consultant with numerous education labor organizations. These include the Oregon Education Association (OEA), the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), the San Diego Education Association (SDEA), and currently the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 99 in Los Angeles, which represents over 45,000 education workers in Southern California, and where Craig Leedham serves as the Director of Internal Organizing.
As an undergraduate at the University of California, San Diego in the early 1980s, Craig Leedham was drawn to the classic sociological theories of Max Weber and Emile Durkheim as they applied to large-scale historical political movements. While this focus on classic social theory was not a popular pursuit in sociological circles in the 1980s and 1990s, Leedham was committed to the contemporary application of core social theories on modern political movements in order to break what had become a period of lethargy in social movement research. This intellectual track remained a source for Leedham’s future academic research as well as an inspiration for his applied professional career.
After graduating from UCSD in 1987, Craig Leedham continued to pursue his interests in sociology at San Diego State University, where he worked as a consultant and trainer with the University’s Social Science Research Institute, and continued his academic study of sociology and social movements. Leedham’s work at San Diego State culminated in his Master’s thesis on the “deep ecology” environmental movement of the 1970s.
Deep ecology was considered a niche environmental theory at the time, and its leading advocates in the groups Earth First! and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and these groups’ radical actions in defense of the environment, were often subject to overly simplistic analysis and critique in the popular press. Craig Leedham’s work, while neither supportive nor critical of the actions of these groups, sought to provide a clear statement of the intellectual grounding of the deep ecology movement and its adherents in the new science of conservation biology, and outline its implications for the broader environmental movement.
As a doctoral student at Colorado State University, Craig Leedham continued to focus his work on coming to grips with contemporary social movement theory. CSU remains a leading research university in the field of environmental sociology, and this focus provided access to extensive research opportunities as well as leading scholars in the field. Leedham’s work during this period resulted in numerous research articles published in peer-reviewed academic journals and multiple speaking engagements, as well as one of the leading social problems course textbooks in the country, Solutions to Social Problems: Lessons from Other Societies, which he co-authored with D. Stanley Eitzen.
Craig Leedham’s doctoral dissertation, “Communicative Action and Sustainability: Grassroots Responses to Colonization of the Lifeworld”, was completed in 1996 and served as an application of the theoretical work of the German social theorist Jurgen Habermas. Leedham successfully asserted the superiority of Habermas’ theory for understanding contemporary social movements, particularly as they applied to the “new social movements” of the period that focused on identity issues as contrasted with the larger-scale political and economic movements of the early twentieth century.
While this is clearly a difficult and challenging time for unions, it is a terrifying time for workers everywhere as job rights and economic security remain under almost constant threat. Low wage and service sector employment has come to define the American workforce, and for years a bureaucratic, lethargic and largely unresponsive organized labor movement failed to adequately respond to both growing threats and a changing political and economic landscape.
For Craig Leedham, the emergence of “alt labor” (a term coined in 2013 by journalist Josh Eidelson for the growing number of nonunion workers groups popping up around the country) holds the greatest promise for mobilizing workers outside of traditional unions and collective bargaining. Leedham, in fact, recently co-launched the blog AltLabor.us to track and analyze the alt labor movement and its varied practitioners around the country.
From domestic workers in New York who were successful in passing a statewide law to grant them rights and benefits beyond those available to them under federal laws, to restaurant workers from the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) in Manhattan that took legal action against food service industry companies that violated minimum wage laws, alt labor groups are beginning to grow and to realize material success. While Craig Leedham is the first to argue that the traditional labor movement is far from lost, these alt labor groups are a growing force that deserves our support and attention.
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