Indiana University Northwest


Office of Marketing and Communications

red line

Labor Studies program offers trip to Brazil, class on 1919 Gary steel strike, in Spring 2009

This spring, students and other Northwest Indiana residents who would like to escape the cold weather and learn about labor issues in a fascinating, warm-weather culture are invited to enroll in the IU Labor Studies Brazil Exchange Program, which runs from March 12 - 22 , 2009. Participants will spend 10 days in Brazil learning firsthand how labor groups, landless peasants, and other activists work for social and political change in their country.

In 2002, Brazil elected its own version of Barack Obama, an auto worker named Lula. Lula won re-election in 2006, but the social movement that helped boost him to national prominence continues. Adult education remains an extremely important element of labor unions in Brazil, with many groups offering education not just to members but also to non-members.

Professor of Labor Studies Ruth Needleman, Ph.D., the labor studies coordinator at IU Northwest, has done extensive research on labor movements in Brazil and their relationship to adult education there. Needleman, who spent four months in Brazil in 2008 teaching and doing research on a Fulbright Fellowship, will be among the faculty accompanying this year’s exchange group.

“I spent time visiting classes of people who were doing literacy training or learning to read and write, and of workers who were unemployed and were studying the equivalent of primary education so that they could gain access to the workforce,” Needleman said. “It really was a phenomenal experience, because I saw firsthand how education changes your life.”

Participants in the exchange program will meet with union leaders, government officials and others who will provide insight into Brazil’s labor movement, economy and political landscape. They will also visit factories that have been taken over and run by workers, and fields that are managed and tended by the workers who farm them. Most importantly, they will meet with people for whom education has become the map to a better life, in a country that is struggling to emerge as a vital new player on the international scene in the 21st century.

Cost of the trip is $2,700 and includes airfare, room and board, and in-country transportation. Participants may also earn three college credits for the trip by enrolling in L495 at IU Northwest for Spring 2009.

Also available in Spring 2009 is a three-credit, eight-week course, L104 — Introduction to the Study of Labor History, beginning the week of January 12, 2009. The class meets once a week, on Wednesdays, either at 10 a.m. or at 5 p.m., and the class can also be taken completely as an online course. The class will look specifically at the 1919 steel strike in which 360,000 workers nationwide went on strike to demand union representation, better wages and an eight-hour work day. Gary was at the center of this historic action, and Needleman’s class will look at the causes, effects and lasting impact of that important event in labor history.

The Labor Studies program at IU Northwest encourages members of the public to become active learners by enrolling in the program’s classes or taking advantage of its exciting travel-abroad opportunities. For more information on the labor history class or on the trip, contact Needleman at (219) 980-6835, or email her at For class registration information, visit the Web at



Media Contact:

Christopher Sheid

Michelle Searer

Professor of Labor Studies Ruth Needleman, Ph.D.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]