Kentucky Passes “Right-to-Work” Legislation

As Twitter battles and cabinet confirmation hearings dominate the news cycle this week, one state has been following a different story: the passing of new so-called “right-to-work” legislation.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed legislation this past weekend that allows workers in that state to choose not to pay union dues to unions that represent them — delivering a blow to the collective bargaining rights of those unions.  A piece of legislation that has long been in the works, this new law was passed by a newly-Republican legislature and takes effect immediately.

Reid Wilson at The Hill explains:

Kentucky is the 27th state in the country to adopt right-to-work legislation, and the last state in the South to pass such a law.

Republicans who took control of the Kentucky state government have plotted an aggressive assault on unions, abortion rights and other pillars of the Democratic coalition.

The GOP-led House and Senate also passed a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, which Bevin said he would sign this weekend.

The legislature is also considering measures to roll back a law requiring construction companies to pay workers prevailing wages for public works projects.

In a statement, Kentucky AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan called the right-to-work and prevailing wage measures “some of the most extreme anti-workers bills in the nation today, slashing wages and silencing working people across the Commonwealth.”

Aside from Kentucky, labor groups are playing defense in such states as Missouri and Iowa, where Democrats suffered losses in November. 

Photo by Ken Lund via flickr (CC-BY-SA)

New Labor Forum Highlights: Jan. 9th 2017

The New Labor Forum has launched 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.

Happy New Year everyone! We’re excited to announce that the January 2017 issue of New Labor Forum will be rolling off press next week. It features an article by J. Phillip Thompson, assessing the chances that American cities might fulfill their potential to become the staging grounds for progressive change in the next decade.

And not coincidentally — given the extensive experimentation with new forms of organizing that is happening in cities around the world — three members of the New Labor Forum editorial team have recently written books related to this question. Consulting editor Penny Lewis has edited with Miriam Greenberg The City Is the Factory: New Solidarities and Spatial Strategies in an Urban Age, due out shortly from Cornell University Press. Editorial Board member Juan Gonzalez’s book Reclaiming Gotham: Bill de Blasio and the Movement to End America’s Tale of Two Cities, is forthcoming from The New Press. And Steve Early, also an Editorial Board member, recently published Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of an American City (Beacon Press). We encourage you to purchase these books and to examine, with us, both the promises of and the challenges inherent in urban populism under the Trump regime.

And finally, our pitch: 2016 has been an amazing year for New Labor Forum, with new readers and audiences through social media, this newsletter, and our blog. And yet, the best is still to be found in our print edition. If you haven’t already, please be sure to subscribe now. Independent vehicles of discussion and debate on workers, working-class communities, and social movements need your support now more than ever.


  1.  The Future of Urban Populism: Will Cities Turn the Political Tides? by J. Phillip Thompson

  2. The City Is the Factory: New Solidarities and Spatial Strategies in an Urban Age Edited by Miriam Greenberg, Penny Lewis

  3. Reclaiming Gotham: Bill de Blasio and the Movement to End America’s Tale of Two Cities by Juan González

  4. Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of an American City by Steve Early

  5. Subscribe to New Labor Forum

Photo by Diana Robinson via flickr (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Fall 2016 Capstone Presentations: Labor Studies MA

Compliments to our Fall 2016 Capstone students in the Labor Studies MA program! On November 29th and December 6th, with the supervision of Professor Lynne Turner, our MA candidates enlightened the audience and stimulated discussion about their research topics:

  • Milica Bogetic – The Trauma Doesn’t Stop at the Incident: A Case Study of Investigators’ Emotional Labor at Legal Aid
  • Daniel Buk – Letting Labor Lead: How Germany Integrates Workers into Its Nation’s Innovation & Growth Policies Through Co-Determination
  • Steven Calco – Gender Politics in the CUNY Student Movement
  • Erica Dodt – Confronting Climate Change: The Blue-Green Alliance and the Prospects of Labor and Environmental Movements Working Together
  • Catherine Garcia – Inequality at the Workplace: The Gender Wage Gap
  • Micah Landau – Labor Movement Revitalization and Rank-and-File Caucuses: Lessons from Teamsters for a Democratic Union
  • Sarah Madden – This Affects Me: An App for a 21st Century Labor Movement
  • Samantha Sherry – Changing the Conversation: Framing in the #FightFor15 Movement
  • Samantha Valente – “Winner the Welder:” Ruth Young and the Fight for Gender Reform through the United Electrical Workers in the 1940’s

New Labor Forum Highlights: Dec. 12th, 2016 

The New Labor Forum has launched 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.

As all our newsfeeds continue to be filled with an increasingly nightmarish list of Trump cabinet appointments, we wanted to bring something different to your attention. New Labor Forum prides itself on covering international affairs as well as domestic politics, economics and social movements.  And it seems apt to close the year with a focus on two countries – Russia and China – that have received so much attention from our Tweeter-in-Chief.

Paul Christensen offers Labor Under Putin, an overview of the severe challenges facing Russian workers. Russia’s authoritarian political climate makes it hard to talk about a real labor movement, but that hasn’t prevented the emergence of a rising number of labor struggles. One recent struggle involved truck drivers protesting a tax that would seriously impact their livelihoods. Philippe Alcoy of Left Voice interviews a local observer for an in-depth look at the Russian trucker’s strike.

Kevin Lin gives depth and breadth to what we think we know about inequality in China. It forms the backdrop to countless stories; one of them is the ongoing engagement between Walmart, the world’s largest private employer, and the ACFTU, which represents Walmart employees in China and is the largest trade union in the world. Qian Jinghua of Sixth Tone reports from the field.

Please note that the next issue of Highlights will come out on January 9th, and will announce the publication of our Winter 2017 issue. Happy holidays from all of us at New Labor Forum!

Table of Contents:

  1. Labor Under Putin: The State of the Russian Working Class by Paul T. Christensen/New Labor Forum
  2. Russian Truck Drivers on Strike by Philippe Alcoy
  3. Rising Inequality and its Discontents in China by Kevin Lin/New Labor Forum
  4. Mega-Retailer Walmart May Face World’s Biggest Union by Qian Jinghua

Photo by Farhad Sadykov via flickr (CC-BY)

Continuing the Discussion: Puerto Rico & PROMESA

Last Friday, together with the New York City Chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, we gathered with Jose La Luz, Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan and Nelson Denis to discuss H.R. 5278, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), looking at the history of Puerto Rico’s economic crisis and the impact of PROMESA on the people.


We also examined the possibility of a federally created Fiscal Control Board for Puerto Rico in the Spring 2016 issue of the New Labor Forum, with a piece by Jennifer Wolff, senior program director at the Center for a New Economy, on the fiscal and economic crisis and its impact on labor unions. We invite you to revisit that piece and continue the conversation.

Debtors’ Island: How Puerto Rico Became a Hedge Fund Playground

“You could call it a perfect storm: a fiscal crisis converging with a deep secular economic decline. Once touted as the showcase of U.S.- led economic development, debt-strapped Puerto Rico is currently embroiled in a struggle for survival. During the mid-twentieth century, Puerto Rico grew at a rapid pace, betting on cheap labor, privileged duty-free access to the U.S. market, and tax incentives for U.S. companies. By the 1970s, however, the formula had lost steam and the government turned to ever-more crafty means to keep the economy and itself afloat by seeking new federal tax exemptions for U.S. firms, obtaining additional transfers in federal funds, increasing government employment, and issuing public debt in ever-larger amounts. By the year 2000, the government ran on ever-larger deficits. The dance came to a screeching halt in 2014, when Puerto Rico’s debt was degraded to junk status and the island was effectively shut out of the financial markets. Read more.
Photo by damian entwistle via flickr (CC-BY-NC)

Video: Election Debrief: Reporters’ Roundtable

On November 18th, the Murphy Institute hosted a forum providing an examination of the 2016 electoral season, in which working-class anxiety and rage assumed a central role. A group of prominent journalists including Laura Flanders, Harold Meyerson, Jamilah King and Julio Ricardo Varela assessed what the primaries and the general election say about the current political landscape, especially with regard to racial, gender and class voting patterns.

A conversation about workers, communities and social justice

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