Labor Arts was created in 2000 by Donald Rubin, Evelyn Jones Rich, Moe Foner (1915-2002), Henry Foner, Esther Cohen, Rachel Bernstein and Debra E. Bernhardt (1953-2001), with skilled help from Ami Palombo, Keri A. Myers, Jeff Watt, Keith Bush, Angela Powell, Milton Glaser and others.
The Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation, Bread and Roses, the cultural arm of the hospital workers' local 1199, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives/Tamiment Library at New York University were the founding sponsors.
We described our mission in 2001: LABOR ARTS is a work in progress -- a virtual museum designed to gather, identify and display examples of the cultural and artistic history of working people and to celebrate the trade union movement’s contributions to that history. We invite you to become involved in this exciting project by giving us your suggestions about resources, collections and exhibitions that we can include on our website.
In a letter of support, then president of the AFL-CIO John J. Sweeney urged all international unions to cooperate in locating for display on Labor Arts "the treasure trove of cultural objects that have moved workers into action from the very inception of our movement."
Our good friend and colleague Debra E. Bernhardt , head of the Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at the time, was at the heart of the creation of this site, and we dedicate the LaborArts site to her. She always reminded us of Joe Hill's refrain: Don't Mourn, Organize.