CRESCENTA VALLEY–The history of organized labor in the United States and the Armenian experience within that movement will be the topic of the first in a series of community lectures hosted by the Armenian Youth Federation’s Crescenta Valley Zartonk chapter.
The series, dubbed “Blueprint for Progress,” will kick off with a discussion by Dr. Ara Khanjian this Sunday, May 17, at 6 pm, at the Crescenta Valley Armenian Center (2633 Honolulu Ave., Montrose, CA, 91020).
A professor of Economics at Ventura College and a lecturer in Money and Banking at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, Khanjian currently serves on the Executive Board of the Armenian International Policy Research Group (AIPRG). He will discuss the birth and life of the labor movement in early 20th century America, focusing on its causes and ultimate consequences on future generations of workers.
The lecture will shed light on the shared Armenian-American experience during this period, focusing on the meager living circumstances of new Armenian immigrants, living in small ghettos and working as cheap labor in factories throughout the Eastern United States.
Armenian immigrants in this period came to the US looking for work or escaping massacre and the Genocide. Having left their families behind, the majority were willing to work for minimal wages and under extreme conditions so they could send money back home. Although very few Armenians in early 20th century America joined the nascent American labor movement, they were often exploited by factory owners as strikebreakers and scabs.
The intent of the AYF Zartonk “Speaker Series” is to introduce the community to issues that are on the current progressive agenda in the United States, according to Aris Hovasapian, the chairperson of the Zartonk Chapter.
Future speaker series lectures (June 28, July 26, and August 23) will focus on the civil rights movement and how prejudicial attitudes toward minorities can lead to genocide. Sustainability and the environmental situation in Armenia are also on the agenda. “We want to tie these issues, which we’ve generally ignored, to the interests of the Armenian-American community and show that our active participation in them will help us achieve our overall goals as a community,” Hovasapian said.