James W. Russell (Ph.D. sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison) is an American author and academic. He is the author of nine books, including The Labor Guide to Retirement Plans, Double Standard: Social Policy in Europe and the United States, and Class and Race Formation in North America. Currently, he is a public policy affiliate scholar at Portland State University in Oregon. He is University Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Connecticut State University. He has been a Fulbright professor in Mexico and the Czech Republic. He is a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance and was an appointed member of the State of Connecticut Retirement Security Board.
Throughout his career, Russell has combined social activism with scholarship. As a student, he was arrested during the 1964 Tulsa civil rights lunch counter sit-ins and led a campaign that resulted in the desegregation of the Sand Springs, Oklahoma public schools. He was the first editor of New Left Notes, the national newspaper of Students for a Democratic Society. Later, as a professor, he was co-chairperson of the Connecticut Committee for Equity in Retirement, a rank-and-file advocacy group that initiated a union campaign that won the right of public employees in Connecticut to transfer from their failing 401(k)-type plan to the state’s traditional pension plan. It was one of the first employee movements to reverse the dominant trend and replace a 401(k)-like plan with a more secure traditional pension plan. Over two thousand state employees switched plans, transferring more than $400 million in savings.