Category Archives: New Labor Forum

New Labor Forum

Announcing the 20th Anniversary Issue of New Labor Forum

The right-wing’s decades-long attack on public sector unionism is slated for a hearing before the Supreme Court later this fall in the Janus v. AFSCME case. The September 2017 issue of New Labor Forum contemplates the probable implications and strategic options facing public sector unions once the ruling is handed down.

Also under contemplation in the Fall 2017 issue is the historically troubled, but occasionally productive, relationship between organized labor and civil rights organizations. Strengthening that alliance in the years ahead will prove critical to the fate of labor and racial justice movements. The journal examines the historical obstacles to such alliances, and suggests new grounds on which to reinvigorate those efforts under current circumstances.

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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: Feb. 19th, 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.

Some of the best of what New Labor Forum has to offer comes in the form of the artwork we publish and review. In addition to printing poetry in each issue, NLF Books & the Arts Editor Gabriel Winant ensures that we carry appraisals of fine arts exhibits, film, theater, and literature, as well as books you might expect. And our “Out of the Mainstream” listing curated by Matt Witt provides brief synopses of films and books less widely reviewed, but of likely interest to our readers.

In this installment of the newsletter, we offer a review by Adom Getachew (due out in our May issue) on a current exhibit “The Sweat of Their Face: Portraying American Workers.” This show is on view through Sept. 3, 2018 at The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., a venue much better known for Presidential portraiture than for the enslaved childcare worker, bobbin girl, powerhouse mechanic, sandwich maker, and other laborers included in this show.

And we include from the current issue of the journal the poem “Winter after the Strike” by the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Gregory Pardlo, who writes with poignant grace of his childhood as the son of a local union leader in the tragic PATCO strike of 1981. Also on the subject of the PATCO strike, Pardlo’s new book, Air Traffic: A Memoir of Ambition and Manhood in America, is due out in April 2018.

On the theme of new and forthcoming books, NLF Editor-at-Large Steve Fraser’s Class Matters: The Strange Career of an American Delusion is due out next month. In his latest book, Fraser examines six signposts of American history—the settlements at Plymouth and Jamestown; the ratification of the Constitution; the Statue of Liberty; the cowboy; the “kitchen debate” between Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev; and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech—to explore just how pervasively class has shaped our national conversation, despite our best efforts to pretend it doesn’t.

And finally, in the run-up to the Academy Awards, we direct your attention to a recent New York Times review of three Oscar-nominated documentary shorts featuring working-class protagonists and themes: Elaine McMillion Sheldon’s Heroin(e), Kate Davis’ Traffic Stop, and Laura Checkoway’s Edith+Eddie.

Table of Contents

  1. Review: Portrait of the Worker as a Black Woman/ Adom Getachew, New Labor Forum
  2. Poem: “Winter After the Strike”/ Gregory Pardlo, New Labor Forum
  3. Class Matters: The Strange Career of an American Delusion/ Steve Fraser, Yale University Press
  4. Review: In the Oscar-Nominated Documentary Shorts, Moving Portraits and Visceral Stories/ Ben Kenigsberg, New York Times

Feature photo shows Tommy (Holding His Bootblack Kit) by Jacob Riis / Modern gelatin silver print from dry plate negative, c. 1890 (printed from original negative, 1994) Museum of the City of New York, New York City; gift of Roger William Riis, 1990

New Labor Forum Highlights: Feb. 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.

The neoliberal trend that has corporatized higher education and made of it a brave new world of contingent faculty labor has also given rise to an ethos of student consumerism that acts, on occasion, to persecute that precarious workforce. In the winter 2018 issue of New Labor Forum, Joshua Sperber takes a close look at the “Rate My Professor” website which functions in just this way, as a kind of online disciplinarian, intimidating and humiliating  an academic precariat whose intellectual labors are subject to the whims of the marketplace.

Unsurprisingly, these conditions have continued to spark nationwide campaigns among contingent faculty to raise wages, secure benefits, increase job security, and defend academic freedom. In an article for New Labor Forum and in a talk delivered at the Murphy Institute, Malini Cadambi Daniel assesses the prospects of this organizing to reconfigure campuses as neither ivory towers nor sweatshops.

We also draw your attention to the work of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at CUNY’s Hunter College. From April 15 – 17, 2018, the National Center will host a conference entitled Facing New Realities in Higher Education and the Professions, featuring David Weil and other prominent scholars.

Table of Contents

1. Making the Grade: Rating Professors- Joshua Sperber/ New Labor Forum
2. Contingent Faculty of the World Unite! Organizing to Resist the Corporatization of Higher Education-Malini Cadambi Daniel/ New Labor Forum
3. Lessons in Adjunct Organizing- Video of talk by Malini Cadambi Daniel/ The Murphy Institute
4. 45th Annual National Conference: Facing New Realities in Higher Education and the Professions, April 15-17, 2018-The National Center/ Hunter College, CUNY

Photo by Timothy Krause via flickr (CC-BY)

New Labor Forum Congratulates the Winner of the Student Essay Contest!

Congratulations to Alyssa Bonilla on her winning essay, “Janus, the Roman God, and the Labor Movement”!

Essay contest winner Alyssa Bonilla

New Labor Forum hosted its first Student Essay Contest in the Fall and we are happy to announce that we received three outstanding submissions from students and recent alumni. While all three submissions were excellent, we selected the piece, “Janus, the Roman God, and the Labor Movement” by Alyssa Bonilla as the winner. Bonilla’s article will appear in the May issue of the journal. Thank you to everyone who helped make the contest a success! We look forward to running it again next Fall.

From the essay:

“The Janus case pending before the Supreme Court is an important moment in the ongoing battle between labor and capital in America. Labor is anticipating the case with dread. Capital anticipates a major victory. The case is invoking familiar legal arguments such as constitutional questions, the rights of the individual and fair pay for services rendered. There is, however, another lens through which one might view this case, a symbolic lens, that may open up our collective thinking about the issues involved, clarifying the strategies needed to move forward.”

Look forward to the full piece in the May issue of the New Labor Forum!

Alyssa Bonilla, M.A. in Labor Studies, is a graduate of the Murphy Institute and lives in New York City.  Ms. Bonilla teaches at Queens College, CUNY and Empire State College, SUNY. She can be reached at alyssa[dot]bonilla[at]esc[dotedu

New Labor Forum Highlights: Jan 8th, 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.

Given the breakneck pace of developments in our national politics, we turn attention in this installment of the newsletter to important developments in South Africa. Cyril Ramaphosa − the heroic anti-apartheid union leader who metamorphosed as a business tycoon during the Mandela presidency – has now been elected to lead the African National Congress. This makes it all but certain he’ll become the next President of South Africa, given the ANC’s continued (though somewhat depleted) electoral dominance.

Here we offer a telling description, by New Labor Forum author Rajendra Chetty, of the role Ramaphosa played in the tragic Marikana massacre in which 34 striking miners were killed, 78 wounded, and 259 arrested at the Lonmin-owned platinum mine on August 16, 2012. We also offer a statistical context for understanding the conditions confronting poor and working-class South Africans today. Among the most urgent of facts are the current soaring rates of unemployment, particularly among young South Africans, which some scholars peg at nearly 50 percent.  This has contributed mightily to the snail’s pace of economic improvement for black South Africans since the country’s independence, pictured in a chart below. We end with a set of policy recommendations by Kuben Naidoo, who insists South Africa’s leaders must confront the reality that “economic growth” does not lead to decreased inequality, and may exacerbate it. His recommendations grapple with a number of issues that merit the attention of U.S. activists and policy makers, given our own history of racialized oppression and decades of burgeoning inequality.

Table of Contents

  1. The Marikana Massacre: Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in South Africa: Rajendra Chetty/ New Labor Forum
  2. Charts on South Africa’s continued social and economic inequality 
  3. It doesn’t end with Piketty – five policies that could reduce inequality: Kuben Naidoo/ Mail & Guardian

Photo by GovernmentZA via flickr

New Labor Forum Highlights: Dec 11th, 2017

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.

As the Supreme Court appears poised to rule this spring against public sector unions in the  Janus v. AFSCME case, public sector workers nation-wide will be incentivized to opt out of paying union dues, even as unions in their workplaces will remain obliged to bargain on their behalf. For decades now, an array of right-wing foundations with deep pockets have brought about legislation and litigation to eviscerate unions, with a particular focus on weakening public sector unions’ political advocacy on behalf of workers and working-class communities. In the post-Janus environment, these foundations are now prepared to take extreme measures to ensure a depletion of dues paying members in public sector unions. At a recent conference, entitled “Janus and Beyond: the Future of Public Sector Unions”, held on November 17th at the Murphy Institute and co-sponsored with the Cornell Worker Institute, speakers described the high stakes and the imperative for bold organizing.

Among the strategic approaches that have already begun to show great promise for strengthening unions in public and private sectors alike is something called “Bargaining for the Common Good.” Bargaining for the Common Good campaigns, described by Marilyn Sneiderman and Secky Fascione in the forthcoming January 2018 issue of New Labor Forum, get union and community groups to work together to leverage contract negotiations for broader, shared gains. Their article highlights a number of innovative and successful campaigns around the country in which unions have worked with community members, racial justice organizations and others to dramatically expand the range of demands included in contract negotiations. If ever there was, in embryo at least, the prospect of conventional trade unionism morphing into a social movement “bargaining for the common good” harbors that promise.

Table of Contents

  1. Who is Behind This & What to Expect from Anti-Union Forces/ Kim Cook, Cornell Worker Institute
  2. Bargaining for the Common Goods/ Marilyn Sneiderman & Secky Fascione, New Labor Forum

Photo by rochelle hartman via flickr (CC-BY)