Planning a Conference in the Midst of a Pandemic – Who Does That?

By: Emily E. LB. Twarog, PhD, UALE VP-Higher Ed and 2021 Conference Chair, July 22, 2020

I have to admit….I love planning conferences, but….I don’t so much love planning them in the midst of a pandemic.

The UALE 2021 Conference Planning Committee kicked off the hard work of conference planning this summer. We met via Zoom to discuss and decide on the theme, the timeline, coordinating with the Labor and Working Class History Association, and who would serve on which committee. This is all par for the course in conference planning. However, the elephant in the Zoom Room was – will we even have a conference??

You may be asking yourself the same question. How can UALE plan a conference?

Well, we are choosing to be both optimistic and realistic. Our hope is that we will be able to gather in gorgeous Chicago (my current hometown) in May 2021 with the recommended safety precautions in place. But, if the time comes to make the call and we realize that an in-person conference is NOT the safe option, we will work to host a virtual conference. So, what does all of this mean for those of you not on the planning committee?

We need you to begin planning your conference submissions. Do you have a cool new health and safety curriculum you would like to workshop? What about a roundtable on the essentialness of work? Are you a documentary filmmaker who is looking for feedback or want to share your newest creation? Are you a student just starting out in the labor studies world?

The theme for 2021 is – Reimagining Workers’ Education to Transform the World. This is a bold ask. But we believe that another world is possible and the pandemic has revealed the many cracks created by neoliberal economic approaches. We must use our teaching and research expertise to organize for a better for all workers. Won’t you share your expertise and submit a proposal?

Call for Proposals

University of Illinois at Chicago, May 24 – 27, 2021

The United Association for Labor Education (UALE), a community of  educators dedicated to promoting education as an essential tool to worker training, leadership development, and equity in the workplace, welcomes your proposals for our 2021 conference at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Our conference will overlap with the Labor and Working Class History Association (LAWCHA) conference, May 26-28, 2021, allowing for shared programming and dialogue. LACHWA is an organization of scholars, teachers, students, labor educators, and activists.
This year’s theme is “Reimagining Workers’ Education to Transform the World.” The conference planning committee is seeking proposals that will explore the many challenges workers are facing in the midst of massive economic inequality, a global health pandemic, attacks on worker rights and labor organizations and increasing violence against people of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ folks. Is another world possible?  How can labor education help to realize another world? How has the COVID pandemic exposed the unequal distribution of services, resources, and income? What does “essential” mean and how does society value work and workers? How do race, class, gender, and sexuality impact public health needs such as mask wearing, social distancing, and workplace changes? What actions must we take as labor educators to change the balance of power in the workplace and society?  How do we teach and what do we teach?
We encourage panels and workshops that go beyond the borders of the United States either entirely or comparatively. We welcome proposals that include:

     –  traditional paper panel (3 people);
     –  curriculum demonstrations/teaching techniques workshop;
     –  roundtable discussion (5-6 people);
     –  performance art;
     –  film showing; &
     –  posters.

All sessions/roundtables MUST designate a chair/commentator or moderator separate from the panelists. While we will consider individual paper submissions, we STRONGLY encourage you to organize a full panel. To assist in finding additional panelists, we recommend submitting a query to the UALE listserv (
Instructions for submissions will be available soon and will be posted on the listserv, website (, and monthly e-newsletter.
Submissions will be accepted between August 30 until October 15, 2020. We plan to announce acceptance of submissions in December 2020. If you have any questions, please email

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