Written by James Parrott, the Chief Economist at the Fiscal Policy Institute
For the first time in nearly five years, major labor agreements were recently reached covering public sector workers in New York City. On April 17, Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 concluded a new 5-year contract dating from January 2012 covering 34,000 workers at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), most of whom work for the subway and bus system in New York City. Two weeks later on May 1, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) reached a 9-year agreement with the City of New York stretching back to November 2009 that affects over 100,000 public school teachers and support staff.
Both contracts represented a breakthrough in ending managements’ demands for a 3-year wage freeze that had grown out of a counter-productive post-Great Recession conservative infatuation with public sector austerity, or more precisely, a mindset that held that workers had to sacrifice to help clean up the economic mess caused by financial sector excesses.
Continue reading The Significance of the TWU and UFT Labor Contracts
We are years into a 13 year Commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, officially underway since May 2012. If that math seems messy, it is one small indication of the long, deep, and still confounding legacy of that war. Faculty member Penny Lewis wrote about our memory of the class dynamics of the antiwar movement in her book, Hardhats, Hippies and Hawks: The Vietnam Antiwar Movement as Myth and Memory (Cornell University Press, 2013), and returns to the subject in a review essay published in Jacobin and Salon this past week.
Testifying in 1971 as part of the Winter Soldier Investigation, a war crimes hearing sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton distinguished the American war in Vietnam from other conflicts:
There’s a quality of atrocity in this war that goes beyond that of other wars in that the war itself is fought as a series of atrocities. There is no distinction between an enemy whom one can justifiably fire at and people whom one murders in less than military situations.
Concluding this thought by reflecting on the experience of soldiers and veterans, Lifton observed, “Now if one carries this sense of atrocity with one, one carries the sense of descent into evil.” Continue reading The Burden of Atrocity
Penny Lewis is an Assistant Professor of Labor Studies at The Murphy Institute
Years of organizing, agitating, occupying and strategizing have brought the issue of low wage and precarious work to the forefront of contemporary economic discussion. Fast food and retail are not the only sectors where such low wage work has become the norm: higher education is increasingly structured along the same logic. One of the central slogans taken up by students and professors at today’s May Day march and rally is “May Day $5K” – a call for a minimum payment of $5,000 per college class taught by part-time and contingent faculty. This demand is being made alongside calls for job security, health benefits, and other improved working conditions for the contingent instructional staff that now comprises 75 percent of all college faculty members. Shamefully, CUNY pays adjuncts closer to $3,000 per class, and it’s not an outlier.
Continue reading Faculty of the World, Unite?
By Steve Brier
One of the great ironies is that workers all over the world celebrate Labor Day on May 1st, not the first Monday in September, the way we do in the U.S. Most people assume the choice of May 1st has something to do with the former Soviet Union. They don’t realize that the idea to celebrate May Day, International Workers’ Day, in fact traces its roots all the way back to Chicago in 1886. This was a period of enormous U.S. economic growth, with millions of immigrant workers from Europe, Mexico, and China pouring into the cities and countryside to work in the mills, factories, fields, and mines. Working conditions and wages were deplorable; workers sometimes toiled 12, 14 or even 16 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week for meager wages.
Continue reading Why We Celebrate May Day as a Workers’ Holiday