New Labor Forum Highlights: March 12th, 2018

The New Labor Forum has a bi-weekly newsletter on current topics in labor, curated by the some of the most insightful scholars and activists in the labor world today. Check out some highlights from the latest edition below.

We break with our regular newsletter schedule to bring you a timely and important article on Italy’s 5 Star movement, whose spectacular victory in Italy’s March 4th election represents the most recent political upset contributing to Europe’s shifting political landscape. The U.S. press has tended to mischaracterize this resurgent political force. Rather than “a ragtag band of disaffected voters” (NYT, 3/5/18), M5S has its roots in left-wing populism and cyber democracy, and only more recently has become tangled up with the rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment proliferating throughout Europe. New Labor Forum is making available to its readers now, ahead of print publication, an article by Richard Drake, entitled Left-Wing Populism Meets “La Grande Crisi,” that very usefully examines M5S.

Photo by Liwax via flickr (CC)

New Labor Forum Highlights: March 5th, 2018

The New Labor Forum has a bi-weekly newsletter on current topics in labor, curated by the some of the most insightful scholars and activists in the labor world today. Check out some highlights from the latest edition below.

Recently released figures for 2017 from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal a reversal in the decades-long decline in unionization rates. For those who have watched with chagrin the downward slope of union density, this appears to be a welcome bright spot. But not so soon, cautions Glenn Perusek in an essay for New Labor Forum. After all, the uptick is a small one, he notes, and perhaps better explained by new hiring in already unionized workplaces, than by massive new union organizing. The data does show an increase in young workers represented by unions, as well as new gains in unionization in white collar fields, including journalism and academia. NLF Consulting Editor and CUNY Sociology Professor Ruth Milkman makes sense of these trends in a WNYC interview with Todd Zwillich, included here.

Anyone concerned about organized labor’s prospects has noticed the dark cloud on the horizon in the form of the Janus v. AFSCME case, currently pending before the Supreme Court. This case threatens a body blow to public sector unionism if, as expected, it manages to abolish the mandatory “agency fees” that workers who don’t join the union currently pay to the unions that must represent them and negotiate their contracts, regardless. In his forthcoming NLF  column, Organized Money: What Is Corporate America Thinking?, Max Fraser devotes his attention to the big money interests that instigated the Janus case, and presently stand poised with sophisticated campaigns to convert public sector workers into “free riders” through opting out of union membership and associated dues. The right-wing foundations that have long pushed to weaken public sector unions by overturning the “agency fee” may, however, find they’ve gotten more than they’ve bargained for. So argues NLF regular Shaun Richman in a recent piece for The Washington Post. He suggests that the deal that brought about the “agency fee,” also contributed to labor peace, in the form of no-strike clauses and exclusive representation. In the post-Janus labor chaos Richman predicts unionists may find new possibilities for militant action, while conservatives may rue the day they brought it about.

Table of Contents

  1. U.S. Union Membership Data in Perspective/ Glenn Perusek, New Labor Forum
  2. How Unions Fracture Along Economic Lines/ Todd Zwillich with Ruth Milkman, The Takeaway, WNYC, Feb 1, 2018
  3. Organized Money: What is Corporate America Thinking?-Freedom’s Janus Face/Max Fraser, New Labor Forum
  4. If the Supreme Court rules against unions, conservatives won’t like what happens next/ Shaun Richman, The Washington Post, Mar 1, 2018 

Photo by Phil Roeder via flickr (CC-BY)

Stephanie Luce Interviews Annelise Orleck for Jacobin

With Janus placing public sector unions on the chopping block while West Virginia teachers stage a wildcat strike for their rights, what’s the right way to feel about the future of labor? Is the picture as bleak as we’ve been made to think, or might there be glimmers of hope portending a brighter future ahead?

Murphy Professor Stephanie Luce recently interviewed historian Annelise Orleck for Jacobin. Orleck’s new book  “We Are All Fast-Food Workers Now”: The Global Uprising against Poverty Wages is the result of her interviews with 140 workers around the world. The picture she paints offers room for some optimism and hope amid it all.

An excerpt from the interview is below. Read the full interview at Jacobin.

Stephanie Luce: You give quite a few inspirational stories, but most of the people you write about are living in pretty difficult conditions — whether it’s Walmart and fast-food workers in the United States, garment workers in Cambodia, or farmers in India. Some of the people you write about have been beaten, jailed — labor activists have been harassed, fired, kidnapped, and murdered. How are they winning?

Continue reading Stephanie Luce Interviews Annelise Orleck for Jacobin

Event: A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History (3/7)

Wednesday, March 7th , 2018
12 pm-1pm
The Murphy Institute, 25 W. 43rd St., New York, NY
Room 18A

The civil rights movement has become national legend, lauded by presidents from Reagan to Obama to Trump, as proof of the power of American democracy. This fable, featuring dreamy heroes and accidental heroines, has shuttered the movement firmly in the past, whitewashed the forces that stood in its way, and diminished its scope. And it is used perniciously in our own times to chastise present-day movements and obscure contemporary injustice.

In A More Beautiful and Terrible History award-winning historian Jeanne Theoharis dissects this national myth-making, teasing apart the accepted stories to show them in a strikingly different light. We see Rosa Parks not simply as a bus lady but a lifelong criminal justice activist and radical; Martin Luther King, Jr. as not only challenging Southern sheriffs but Northern liberals, too; and Coretta Scott King not only as a “helpmate” but a lifelong economic justice and peace activist who pushed her husband’s activism in these directions.

Moving from “the histories we get” to “the histories we need,” Theoharis challenges nine key aspects of the fable to reveal the diversity of people, especially women and young people, who led the movement; the work and disruption it took; the role of the media and “polite racism” in maintaining injustice; and the immense barriers and repression activists faced. Theoharis makes us reckon with the fact that far from being acceptable, passive or unified, the civil rights movement was unpopular, disruptive, and courageously persevering. Activists embraced an expansive vision of justice—which a majority of Americans opposed and which the federal government feared.

Jeanne Theoharis is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. She is the author or coauthor of seven books and numerous articles on the history of the Black freedom struggle and on the contemporary politics of race in the United States. Theoharis’s New York Times best-selling biography The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks won the 2014 NAACP Image Award and the Letitia Woods Brown Award from the Association of Black Women Historians.

The Murphy Institute Welcomes New Staff

As the Murphy Institute prepares for the fall 2018 semester—our first as the CUNY School for Labor an Urban Studies—we are very pleased to announce four new appointments that will add luster to our already exceptional faculty and staff. Basil Smikle and James Steele have been appointed to our full-time faculty as Distinguished Lecturers in Politics and Public Policy. Stephen Greenfeld will assume the post of Academic Program Manager for Urban Studies. Warren Winter will be our new Information Technology Director, helping us advance our technical capacities as we make the transition from Institute to full-fledged CUNY School. Welcome all! Continue reading The Murphy Institute Welcomes New Staff

Uber, the “Metropocalypse,” and Economic Inequality in D.C.

This post originally appeared at Working-Class Perspectives.

By Katie Wells, Kafui Attoh, and Declan Cullen

Public transit infrastructure in Washington, D.C. is crumbling. Metro and bus services have been cut. Fares have gone up. And, safety remains a problem. After 40 years of deferred maintenance, poor management, and the lack of decent, long-term funding, the Metro system needs $1.4 billion worth of repairs, and it must close a $290 million budget gap just to continue basic operations. Some call this the “metropocalypse.”

Private taxi services haven’t been much better. It’s often hard to get a cab, especially for people of color or people who live outside of the wealthy, White areas of the city. Racial prejudice among the mostly immigrant taxi drivers means that Black residents are regularly refused service.

In light of these transit problems, Uber might seem like an obvious win for D.C. Ridesharing services are cheap for riders, require no significant public investment, and limit some of the discrimination that has made getting a taxi so difficult for so many people. Our research shows otherwise. Indeed, Uber could undermine the very thing city officials are working hard to address: economic inequality. Continue reading Uber, the “Metropocalypse,” and Economic Inequality in D.C.

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