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Black Communities Leading the Movement for Economic Democracy

By Rebecca Lurie

Black History Month is here — and we must declare Black Lives Matter well beyond any one month.

Dr. Phil Thompson shares some important facts and insights in a recent article in the New Labor Forum, “The Future of Urban Populism: Will Cities Turn the Political Tide? He clearly lays out that the generations of inequality and disparate opportunities between the races stems from capitalism and its use of race as a tool to create and maintain the underclass, slavery, disenfranchisement, mass incarceration, poverty, low mortality rates and economic injustice.

Thompson identifies all the challenges for a new progressivism, and yet notes that, “…change is very possible. There are already hundreds, if not thousands, of small initiatives underway in cities to disrupt or reverse these dominant negative trends.” He then challenges us to make a movement of these efforts. Continue reading Black Communities Leading the Movement for Economic Democracy

After “Vigorous” Resistance Campaign, Andrew Puzder Withdraws

Yesterday afternoon, fast-food executive Andrew Puzder announced that he would be withdrawing his nomination to be the next US labor secretary. This came on the heels of last week’s announcement that Puzder was being sued via  class-action lawsuit for an illegal wage-fixing scheme at his Carl’s Jr. restaurants.

Of course, as David Dayen reported in the Intercept, this was only on in a “growing list of concerns” before Puzder’s confirmation hearing, formerly slated for later today. Puzder had:

“[…] delayed his hearing four times to get his financial disclosures in order; admitted to employing an undocumented housekeeper; and worked under the tutelage of a notorious mob lawyer. His ex-wife appeared on Oprah in disguise in the 1990s to discuss domestic violence incidents in their marriage; senators in both parties have viewed the footage, and divorce records, which include additional allegations of assault, were unsealed on Tuesday.” Continue reading After “Vigorous” Resistance Campaign, Andrew Puzder Withdraws

Avoiding Concessions Under Trump

In a recent In These Times article (When Raising the Minimum Wage is a Bad Thing), Murphy Prof. Stephanie Luce and Jen Kern warn of the perils of conceding ground on minimum wage in the name of short term gains:

First, we cannot accept short-term gains in the form of a higher wage if they mean concessions that undermine our ability to organize over the long haul. Such concessions could include the ability to form unions, engage in collective bargaining, strike and protest. For example, a minimum wage increase that comes alongside cuts to the Department of Labor’s inspection staff would be a major setback. A minimum wage increase that comes at the price of “right-to-work” provisions would be disastrous.

The minimum wage is a valuable tool for raising the incomes of millions of workers, but it loses much of its value if worker organizations and movements are too weak to enforce the law. It doesn’t help people without jobs and only minimally helps those with few hours of work. Most importantly, minimum wages have the greatest impact when workers have unions to protect their jobs and help them move up to higher paid positions.

Second, we must be wary of attempts to divide our movement. The first minimum wage, which was passed in 1938, excluded domestic workers and farmworkers—occupations that were dominated by African-American workers. Today, the federal law sets a much lower minimum wage for tipped workers—a practice that disproportionately hurts women and people of color. An increase to the minimum wage must benefit everyone, including farmworkers and people who work for tips.

It’s also quite possible that a higher minimum wage could be linked to concessions on policies that impact unemployed workers, through cuts to unemployment benefits and the safety net. If we accept an increase to the minimum wage on these terms, we will drive a further wedge between the so-called “deserving” and “non-deserving” poor. Indeed, our ability to win depends on whether this fight is an inclusive one. 

They remind us:

Our job isn’t to find common ground with Trump or to figure out ways to work with a hostile administration that will put forward terrible deals. Our job is to build organizations and make our movements more powerful.

For more on the role of unions, trade and infrastructure under Trump, read the full article at In These Times.

Photo by Stephen L via flickr (CC-BY-NC)

New Labor Forum Highlights: Feb. 6, 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.

In the short time since Donald Trump was inaugurated, a lot has happened — with the threat of more to come. Among the many Executive Orders signed last week, Trump acted to reverse Obama’s halt on the Keystone and Dakota Pipelines. While EO’s won’t get the pipelines built on their own, it’s a clear signal that on climate policy, things are quickly heading south.

New Labor Forum Columnist Sean Sweeney has written a post about the evolving relationship between some of the Building Trades, the new Administration, and the fossil fuel industry.

Naomi Klein rounds out the topic by pointing out that much of the policy changes we are likely to see under Trump will be driven by the logic of disaster capitalism – that changes the 1% has long desired and planned for, will be rolled out in response to ‘disasters’. Understanding this dynamic is important, as it will apply not only to energy policy, but to national security, labor rights, and more.

Given the tensions in the labor movement around climate policy, we expect (and hope for) vigorous debate — please be sure to visit our Facebook page and/or the blog to participate.

Table of Contents

  1. Pandering to the Predator: Labor and Energy Under Trump / Sean Sweeney
  2. Get Ready for the First Shocks of Trump’s Disaster Capitalism / Naomi Klein
  3. President Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum – The Corporate Connections / LittleSis

Photo by Joe Brusky via flickr (CC-BY-NC)

From Taxi Workers to Yemeni Bodega Owners: Labor Resists the Immigration Ban

Since the Trump administration’s immigration ban was issued last Friday night barring entry to the United States for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, protests have erupted at airports and in cities across the United States. Demonstrators are loudly showing their rejection of the xenophobia, racism and bigotry inherent in the ban’s sweeping impact and disregard for the lives of those it affects.

On Saturday night, while protests raged at JFK and other airports around the country, the resistance was bolstered by action from the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents 19,000 drivers in New York City. At 5pm, the Alliance announced that it would stop pickups from JFK airport from 6-7pm in solidarity with the protests.

Today, the city’s Yemeni grocers are on strike for eight hours as a response to the ban as well.

Yemen is one of the countries affected by the ban. Between 4000 and 6000 grocery stores and bodegas are owned by Yemeni immigrants in NYC.

Photo by Shawn Hoke via flickr (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Is the World Really Moving Away from Fossil Fuels?

From Trade Unions for Energy Democracy:

During 2015 and 2016, a number of significant public and political figures have made statements suggesting that the world is “moving away from fossil fuels,” and that the battle against greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and climate change is therefore being won. Such statements are frequently accompanied by assurances that the transition to renewable energy and a low-carbon economy is both “inevitable” and already well underway, and that economic growth will soon be “decoupled” from dangerously high annual emissions levels. This optimism has also been accepted by a section of the environmental movement, and even by some unions.

Renewables and Reality 

If the “green growth” optimists are correct, the political implications for trade unions and social movements are profound. For unions, it would mean focusing aggressively on the need to protect the livelihoods of the tens of millions of workers around the world who currently work in fossil fuels and rallying around the principle of “just transition” encoded in the preface to the Paris Agreement. But it would also mean that the need to wage a determined and protracted political struggle against fossil fuel expansion and “extractivism” would immediately become less urgent. In this scenario, trade union efforts would rightly focus on working to shape the next energy system as it rises from the ashes of the old. Continue reading Is the World Really Moving Away from Fossil Fuels?