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About Lydia Savage

A native of San Francisco, Lydia began her undergraduate studies in 1982. After taking time off to travel and live in many places including Japan and teaching ESL to children of migrant workers in the Central Valley, she eventually earned her B.A. in geography from the University of California at Berkeley in 1990. She moved to the east coast in 1991 to begin her graduate studies in geography at Clark University in Worcester, MA where she earned her M.A. in 1993 and her Ph.D. in 1996. Despite her family’s best efforts to lure her back to the west coast, she began teaching at USM in 1996 and currently serves as chair of the department. Her teaching and research combine her interests in economic change, feminism, urban and regional development, and her family’s long history in the U.S. labor movement.
My research interests are in economic, urban, and social geography. My long-term research has focused primarily on economic change and both its impact on workers and the response of workers, particularly women employed in the growing service sector. This research examines the ways in which labor unions use geographically informed organizing strategies in light of contemporary changes in employment. I maintain that workers can use labor unions to improve their position in the labor market, and in the process, labor unions are strengthened and are better able to respond to economic change. My research findings contribute to the emerging geographic literature that renders workers, especially women, visible as actors in creating economic, social, and political landscapes. The AFL-CIO has placed organizing low-wage service workers-women, people of color, and immigrants-on the agenda. While it is a welcome and important step for unions to recognize the importance of worker's identities in their organizing efforts, my findings indicate that there are important place-to-place differences among groups of workers. In addition, organizing strategies that were created for the manufacturing sector must change to take account of the different spatial arrangements (i.e., factory floor vs. individual offices) and geographies/micro-geographies of service workplaces. Moreover, labor unions as institutions must fundamentally change their structure, culture, and leadership in order to represent workers in the new economy.


Present Professor of Geography, University of Southern Maine

Contact Information

(207) 780-5321