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: 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)

The Unmet Promise of Labor’s Resuscitation (12/8)

December 8th, 2017
5:30-8pm
Murphy Institute
25 W. 43rd St., 18th Floor, New York, NY

RSVP HERE

New Labor Forum, first published in September 1997, was founded to contribute to the new possibilities for debate and discussion among labor and its allies in the wake of the AFL-CIO’s first ever contested elections in 1995. In those heady days, the New Voice leadership at the federation proclaimed its commitment to large-scale union organizing and ambitious coalition building with working-class communities, and particularly communities of color. It simultaneously engaged in a rapprochement spurred by Left intellectuals and progressive political activists who had for decades been excluded from the AFL-CIO’s strategic discussions. These efforts gave rise to widespread hopes that organized labor might help ignite a broad, national movement for social and economic justice. On the twentieth anniversary of the journal’s founding, we will host an assessment of those earlier ambitions, examining the complex reasons why they have borne such meager results. We will also examine the current challenges and possibilities for building a progressive movement capable of confronting a thoroughly financialized economy of highly concentrated wealth, precarious work and unabated racial disparity, and a political system in the vice grip of corporate interests in which a multi-racial working-class alliance remains a distant hope.

Speakers:

Stephen Lerner – Organizing in the New Economy: What are the principal features of the new economy that workers and working-class communities must now confront? What does this suggest about new forms that organizing should take?

Phil Thompson and Liza Featherstone – Debate: What is required to build a multi-racial working-class political movement?

New Labor Forum Highlights: Nov 27th, 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.

We are currently marking the 20th year of publication of New Labor Forum. At first glance, the conditions in which we find ourselves today seem a far cry from those that gave birth to New Labor Forum twenty years ago. The journal’s inaugural editorial statement, back in the fall of 1997, began by declaring, “This is a time of hope,” a mood that then felt palpable among labor activists. In the wake of the AFL-CIO’s first ever contested elections in 1995, the New Voice leadership at the federation had proclaimed its commitment to large-scale union organizing and ambitious coalition building with social justice organizations that had also been in decline since the late seventies, but would be essential to resuscitating a movement. At the same time, organized labor began to engage in a rapprochement with and spurred by left intellectuals and progressive political activists who had for decades been excluded from the AFL-CIO’s strategic discussions. All these efforts gave rise to widespread hopes that organized labor might also help fuel a broader, national movement for social and economic justice.

Yet, even in those days, there was a keen sense that the revitalization of the labor movement and the building of working-class political power would be a tough row to hoe. In that same editorial statement of 1997, we acknowledged, “The journal is both a response to this new optimism and a recognition of the difficulties that lie ahead.” The journal therefore went on, for the next two decades, to debate and discuss the thorniest questions at the heart of the hoped for, yet still allusive, revitalization of the labor movement. Those issues included: the financialization of the economy, the dramatic growth of low wage service and precarious work, the decline of strikes, the rise of union busting, burgeoning rates of incarceration,  debates about race and class, immigration policy, feminism and the labor movement, the movement for LGBTQ rights, union democracy and union structure, labor’s marriage to the Democratic Party, labor’s relationship to wars without end, to Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter, two waves of health care reform, and the climate change crisis. In this installment of our newsletter we offer three such debates we have hosted over the years, and an invitation to you to attend our
20th Anniversary Event on December 8, 2017, 5:30 p.m. at The Murphy Institute.

Table of Contents

  1. Open Borders Debate/ Dan La Botz/ Ana Avendaño
  2. “Identity Politics” Debate/ Walter Benn Michaels/ Alethia Jones
  3. New Voting DemographicsG. Cristina Mora & Michael Rodríguez-Muñiz/ Richard Alba
  4. New Labor Forum 20th Anniversary Event/ The Murphy Institute

New Labor Forum Highlights: Nov. 13th, 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.

While important revelations of workplace sexual harassment committed by men in the entertainment industry continue to come to light, we take this occasion to consider the ubiquitous and nearly invisible harassment faced by the women who are most tethered to their jobs and least able to access legal remedies. They labor in fast food joints, hotels, secretarial jobs, farms, hospitals, and night shift janitorial jobs. For a host of reasons, their sexual harassment, assault and rape go largely unreported.* This abuse sometimes motivates them to organize, says New Labor Forum Editorial Member Kate Bronfenbrenner,  “But it can be a reason women don’t organize,” she explains in a Boston Globe article on sexual harassment within unions. Lin Farley, journalist, author, and coiner of the term “sexual harassment,” suggests that employers may also use sexual harassment to fend off union drives: “You have young girls, working-class kids for the most part, trying to get jobs in fast food places, because they have to work. And you have fast food managers systematically using sexual harassment to keep turn-over high, so they don’t have to unionize, they don’t have to give high wages. . . . Its one of the huge scandals going on in America today.” Continue reading New Labor Forum Highlights: Nov. 13th, 2017

New Labor Forum Highlights: Oct 30th, 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.

New Labor Forum continues to discuss and debate the macro-economic and social forces that have contributed to the rightward shift in our national politics — among them, gaping wealth and income gaps, the outsourcing and downsizing of jobs in union-dense industries, the scapegoating of immigrants, and persistent forms of racism. Exacerbating the impact of those larger forces has been a strategic, highly effective effort known for over two centuries as gerrymandering. During the past seven years, the art of redrawing election districts for political gain has become a fairly exact science in the hands of right-wing super PACs and the Republicans they back.

Here we turn our attention to this radical right endeavor following the 2010 Census, offering a video clip from a recent talk at the Murphy Institute by David Daley, author of Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count.  We also provide a report by the Brennan Center for Justice, entitled Extreme Maps, which closely tracks the manipulation of election district lines, with greatest effects in seven states: Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania,  Florida, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia. The Brennan Center joins the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund and dozens of other organizations that have filed amicus briefs in support of appellants in Gill v. Whitford, the most important case on the constitutionality of gerrymandering in over a decade, now under consideration by the Supreme Court. Included here is a Slate piece by Mark Joseph Stern reporting on the case’s hearing on October 3rd.

Table of Contents

  1. Divided Results: Voting And Partisan Gerrymandering/ David Daley, Murphy Institute
  2. Extreme Maps/ Laura Royden and Michael Li, Brennan Center for Justice, NYU School of Law
  3. Partisan Gerrymandering Got the Sotomayor Treatment/ Mark Joseph Stern, Slate

Photo by judy_and_ed via flickr (CC-BY-NC)