Professor of Labor and Industrial Relations Scott Molloy is an award-winning scholar, author and teacher who’s well known and loved for telling his story of labor while teaching about labor history.
His story goes like this: Encouraged by his father, a Providence cop, and his mother, a Providence schoolteacher, he earned his bachelor’s degree from Rhode Island College and his master’s degree in American history from the University of New Hampshire.
“Then I did what anyone would do with a master’s degree, I became a bus driver,” Professor Molloy said.
Labor history is so interesting. It’s not just a story; it’s an analysis of life.
He took the wheel of the bus and immersed himself in the history of the transit workers union, becoming a shop steward, president and business agent while pursuing his Ph.D. at Providence College. He operated out of the garage that once housed trolleys that were run by his Irish immigrant grandfather.
“I enjoyed the dichotomy of one foot in academia and the other on a gas pedal,” Professor Molloy said. “I discovered a penchant for teaching and learned a lifelong lesson: Don’t expect your students to automatically embrace the subject matter at hand without displaying a passion for the material yourself.”
Professor Molloy brought that passion to his research and discovered some of the most poignant stories of labor history. His book, Irish Titan, Irish Toilers, Joseph Banigan and 19th Century New England Labor, recounts the previously untold story of a child laborer who became wealthy industrialist. His earlier book, Trolley Wars, Streetcar Workers on the Line, provides an intimate look at streetcar workers during the Rhode Island Transit Strike of 1902.
“These are the kind of books that are generally never written because the source material is so scarce. But I stick with these subjects because they are the stories of the hardships and struggles of the working class,” said Professor Molloy, who is the president and founder of the R.I. Labor History Society and helped to build the Irish Famine Memorial in Providence.
“Labor history is so interesting. It’s not just a story; it’s an analysis of life,” Professor Molloy explained. “I try to convey my enthusiasm for the subject, because if I’m not interested, why should my students be?”