Category Archives: Urban Studies

Dead Labor on a Dead Planet: The Inconvenient Truth of Workers’ Bladders

This article was originally featured in Monthly Review Zine.

By Kafui Attoh

“Once labor has been embodied in instruments of production and enters the further process of labor to play its role there, it may be called, following Marx, dead labor [. . .]. The ideal toward which capitalism strives is the domination of dead labor over living labor.” — Harry Braverman
“[T]here are no jobs on a dead planet.” — Bill McKibben

In a recent essay in New Labor Forum, authors Jeremy Brecher, Ron Blackwell, and Joe Uehlein urge the labor movement to take a more active role in the fight against climate change. Many unions, they lament, have been reluctant to engage the issue, and indeed others have actively taken positions at odds with the climate movement’s most basic tenets. Where unions have been asked to choose between job security and the environment, many have understandably chosen the former. In this fraught context, the authors argue that unions must not only work to reveal the “jobs versus environment” choice as a false one, but that they must do so by developing a climate protection strategy of their own. Continue reading Dead Labor on a Dead Planet: The Inconvenient Truth of Workers’ Bladders

Rev. Al Sharpton Talks Protest and Policing at Murphy

Earlier this semester, a full house attended a special forum entitled “From Protest to Policy: Policing in Communities of Color,” kicking off the Fall 2014 Labor Breakfast Forum series at the Murphy Institute.

The event was moderated by CUNY Prof. John Mollenkopf and featured the Reverend Al Sharpton, who talked about the controversial policing tactics seen in present-day and past New York City, the effect these tactics have had on minority communities as well as the effect they have on the overall crime rate, and the quality of life for all New York City residents. The discussion also looked at arrest trends and potential public policy interventions.

Reverend Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network, is an American Baptist minister, civil rights activist, and television/radio talk show host. In 2004, he was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. presidential election. He hosts his own radio talk show, Keepin’ It Real, and he makes regular guest appearances on Fox News (such as on The O’Reilly Factor), CNN, and MSNBC. In 2011, he was named the host of MSNBC’s PoliticsNation, a nightly talk show.

September Protests

Photo Credit: Leung Ching Yau Alex via Flickr

By Stanley Aronowitz

September was an eventful month for social protests.

Here at home, an estimated 400,000 marchers filled the streets of New York City to demand urgent action to stem climate change. Global warming is only the tip of the crisis: flooding, severe hurricane activity, droughts and unexpected heat waves have recently afflicted large portions of the planet. The climate march comprised a wide range of groups, including large contingents from the unions, environmental organizations and a surprising array of unaffiliated citizens.

On Monday, September 29 hundreds of members of the Professional Staff Congress, the union of faculty and staff of the City University of New York rallied for a raise on the street facing the main entrance to Baruch College, where the CUNY Board of Directors was meeting. Like other city and state workers, the union’s 23,000 members had not received a raise for four years.

The pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong exemplified a more militant response. Continue reading September Protests

The growing disjunction in education policy

This article originally appeared on The Hill.

By Basil Smikle Jr.

A flurry of activity among education reformers across the country exposes a growing bifurcation within its ranks, uncovered by recent challenges to teacher tenure in New York. Former CNN anchor Campbell Brown’s Partnership for Educational Justice, which recently recruited renowned attorneys David Boies and Laurence Tribe, seeks to reform teacher tenure laws, mirroring activities that led to California’s controversial Vergara ruling. But earlier this month, the New York City Parents Union filed suit separately alleging that Brown’s group failed to include scores of minority parents in their complaint. This troubling yet pervasive tableau has bedeviled modern reform movements since their inception: Leadership has remained predominantly white, even though the target populations are overwhelmingly black and Latino. And these battles are contributing to a growing disjunction in education policy and among stakeholders within communities and across cities.  Continue reading The growing disjunction in education policy

Hillary Clinton’s commitment to civil rights

This article originally appeared on The Hill.

By Basil Smikle Jr.

On a subfreezing morning in January 2003, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) walked to the pulpit of Trinity Baptist Church’s Martin Luther King Day celebration in the Bronx to make a startlingly rousing speech to their predominantly African-American congregation. Typically, such speeches are principally aspirational — they acknowledge that society has largely rebuked racial discrimination’s ugly past but urge steadfastness in tackling challenges that lay ahead. But it was Clinton’s stirring repudiation of Trent Lott, then the Republican Senate Majority Leader from Mississippi who a month earlier praised Strom Thurman’s 1948 pro-segregation presidential campaign, that enthused the audience. Her remarks suggested changes in leadership alone will not eradicate racism and discrimination but the rigidity of the pathways to political and economic enfranchisement must acquiesce to the strength inherent in this country’s diversity. Continue reading Hillary Clinton’s commitment to civil rights

New Report Shows Connection Between Sea Level Rise, Affordable Housing

This weekend, over 300,000 people took to the streets to demand action on climate change. Many of the protesters took pains to demonstrate that climate change and global warming are not “just” environmental issues — they are closely connected to issues of labor, civil rights and housing, too.

In a report recently released by the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, Murphy Institute instructor Samuel Stein connects the risk of rising sea levels to the question of affordable homeownership. New York City’s coastal areas are home to tens of thousands of single family homeowners, and a large portion of them are working and middle class. For decades, city planning decisions made the waterfront the site of not just public housing, but low-income home ownership opportunities. Today, both climate change and rising flood insurance costs threaten to displace these homeowners, and could compound the city’s affordable housing crisis.

In their report, “Rising Tides, Rising Costs: Flood Insurance and New York City’s Affordability Crisis,” Samuel Stein and Caroline Nagy explore this dilemma through quantitative research, historical narratives, homeowner and policy-maker interviews, informative graphics and more.

Photo by John De Guzman via flickr (CC-BY-ND).