New Labor Forum Highlights, June 25th, 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.

The future of public sector unions in the U.S. hangs in the balance, awaiting the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision due this week, even as soon as tomorrow. This case will decide whether public sector workers in a workplace represented by a union and benefiting from a collective bargaining agreement negotiated by that union will have to continue paying an “agency fee” to the union for the work it does on their behalf. With a public sector unionization rate five times that of the private sector rate, the expected ruling against the American Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees threatens to undermine what has been a redoubt of union strength, heightening the need for bold new ideas to rebuild the labor movement.  That is what we offer here.

We begin with a provocative think-piece (due out in our September 2018 print issue) by Larry Cohen, Board Chair of Our Revolution, the successor organization to Bernie 2016, and past President of the Communications Workers of America. Cohen argues that the future of enterprise-based collective bargaining in the U.S. is bleak, and that now’s the time to move to a sectoral bargaining system, which protects industry-wide wages and conditions of employment for workers in many other countries, from South Africa to Norway. He discusses why organized labor and progressive democrats should make universal, sectoral bargaining a top demand and why it will make other victories possible.

Next we offer a strategic proposal by Luke Elliott-Negri and Marc Kagan for what may be a new opportunity to organize the tens of thousands of public sector adjuncts in New York State in the post Janus environment. This chance for organizing results from a recent law unions managed to pass in New York, intending to blunt the expected blow of the Janus decision. Unions in states like California have made similar legislative inroads that may also offer similar promising options for organizing.

Chris Brooks weighs in on the question of whether unionists should press for a “members only” brand of unionism made more likely in the wake of the anticipated Janus decision. Examining a 2011 Tennessee law targeting teachers’ unions, Brooks cautions against embracing “members only” trade unionism and the resulting competition among unions that may vie to represent workers in the same bargaining unit. He argues that inter-union competition, which has long been promoted by strategists on the right and some on the left, more often benefits employers than workers.

With this newsletter, we take a hiatus for the summer season, returning on Labor Day. In parting, we leave you with a wildly imaginative, searing poem by Alberto Rios, Arizona’s first state poet laureate. In it, he contemplates the very nature of a border, giving us all something to ponder as we respond to the fact of the thousands of children at our border, incarcerated and separated from their parents into the unknowable future.


Table of Contents

  1. The Time Has Come for Sectoral Bargaining/ Larry Cohen, New Labor Forum
  2. An Odd Twist: Might a Response to Janus Make Adjunct Organizing Easier in New York State?/ Luke Elliott-Negri and Marc Kagan, New Labor Forum
  3. The Cure is Worse than the Disease/ Chris Brooks, New Labor Forum
  4. The Border a Double Sonnet/ Alberto Rios, New Labor Forum

Photo by Richard Gillin via flickr (CC-BY-SA)

TUED International Conference on Just Transition

By John Treat for TUED

On May 29, 2018, trade union representatives and close allies from more than a dozen countries met in New York City for TUED’s international conference, Towards a Just Transition: International Labor Perspectives on Energy, Climate and Economy.

The conference brought together more than fifty participants, from both the global North and the global South, representing 31 unions as well as 15 environmental, community-based, research and policy allies. Participants came to New York from Australia, Canada, Brazil, India, Italy, Nepal, Philippines, South Korea, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States (including Puerto Rico) and Vietnam. Many of the international participants also joined TUED’s two-day strategic retreat, which took place immediately following the conference. Continue reading TUED International Conference on Just Transition

Public Bank NYC Launches Campaign on Laura Flanders Show

The Public Bank NYC Coalition believes public money should work “for the public good, not private gain.” To that end, it advocates for a public bank that can: 

support vital sectors of our local economy and divest from banks that are financing destructive corporate interests, including speculative real estate, private prison and immigrant detention companies, the global arms trade and the fossil fuel industry.

The Laura Flanders Show just released a video profile featuring Deyanira del Río from the New Economy Project, Linda Levy of the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union and Enlace’s Cindy Martinez, highlighting the need for a bank and what it aims to do. Check it out!

Congratulations to Spring 2018 Graduates!

On May 30th, the Murphy Institute hosted our spring graduation party.

The event was emcee’d by Diana Robinson, who graduated with an MA in Labor Studies, and Racquel Barnes, who graduated with an MA in Urban Studies. Thanks also to MA in Labor Studies graduate, and new father, James Van Nort for his stirring speech.

Some photos from the event are below.  A big congratulations to our graduating class of 2018!

Photos by Aaron Lenchner

And congrats to our graduates who attended the CUNY School of Professional Studies commencement ceremony at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall on Friday June 1st. Some photos of our grads are among those posted on the SPS Facebook page.

New Labor Forum Highlights: June 11th, 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.

In this newsletter, we turn our attention to the suburbs. And for good reason, since that’s where slightly over half of U.S. residents currently live. You may have noticed that today’s suburban dwellers increasingly don’t conform to the mythic image of the suburbanite. By 2013, 61 percent of all immigrants to the U.S. lived in the suburbs, and that percentage continues to increase. And, rather than the prized destination of prolonged efforts to escape urban ghettos, many of these suburbs are where immigrants settle upon arrival. Partly as a result of these trends, the last census showed suburban poverty to have grown at more than twice the rate of urban poverty.

In the current issue of New Labor Forum, Phil Neel describes this new suburban landscape: where once there were only bedrooms and commuter trains, now there are factories, warehouses, distribution centers, and sometimes blasted waste-lands lacking many of the essential services, like child care and public transportation, more common to cities.  He argues that one need look no further than Ferguson, Missouri for evidence that conditions now prevalent in suburbs will contain new challenges, as well as new possibilities, to spur movements for social and economic justice. For all of these reasons, anyone interested in the nation’s social and political future would do well to study suburbia. Toward that end, we also offer a recent report on the challenges of suburban poverty by Margaret Weir, as well as a review of Lorrie Frasure-Yokely’s Racial and Ethnic Politics in American Suburbs, the 2016 winner of two national book awards.

Table of Contents

  1. The New Geography of Suburbia/ Phil A. Neel, New Labor Forum
  2. The Rising Challenge of Poverty in the Suburbs/ Margaret Weir, Scholars Strategy Network
  3. The Changing Face of the U.S. Suburbs/ Josh Fox, Harris Public Policy- The University of Chicago

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski via flickr (CC-BY-SA)

Writing Center Coordinator Michael Rymer Receives Award

The Marilyn Sternglass Writing Award at City College is given for excellence in writing in the English Department’s Language and Literacy program. This semester, that award went to Murphy Writing Center Coordinator Michael Rymer, who holds an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and is currently enrolled in the English Master of Arts in Language & Literacy program.

From Michael:

The paper looks at the use of Close Vertical Transcription (CVT) of writing center sessions as a professional development tool. Close Vertical Transcription is a method of transcribing that draws from linguistics, and some writing center professionals advocate for it as an alternative to less rigorous methods because they edit out non-verbal utterances and pauses and have no way or representing interruptions. In the paper I look at the literature on using transcripts in WC professional development (which has been happening since the beginning of writing centers) and I write about using CVT to transcribe a session here.

Congratulations Michael!

A conversation about workers, communities and social justice

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