Event: Is a Democratic Capitalism Possible (9/14)

Friday, Sept 14th, 8:30AM-10:30AM
CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies
25 W. 43rd Street, 18th Floor
New York, NY 10036

RSVP HERE

Inequality is accelerating at an alarming rate as corporate political power is expanding and worker rights and protections are shrinking. The hyper concentration of wealth in the hands of a financial elite has come to dominate politics and shape policy in a manner that has eroded democratic governance at the federal, state, and the municipal levels. Can democracy be saved from the grips of capitalism? What factors most threaten meaningful civic engagement and what changes are needed to bolster our democracy and create a more equitable society?

Speakers Include:

  • J. Phillip Thompson, NYC Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives, including the Mayor’s strategy to encourage greater voter participation and improve the way the city carries out elections, DemocracyNYC; and author of Double Trouble: Black Mayors, Black Communities and the Struggle for Deep Democracy
  • Kim Phillips Fein, Associate Professor, NYU Gallatin School, and author of Invisible Hands: The Businessmen’s Crusade Against the New Deal and Fear City: The New York City Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of the Age of Austerity
  • Maurice Weeks, Co-Executive Director of Action Center on Race & the Economy (ACRE)
  • Moderator: Frances Fox Piven, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology, CUNY Graduate School, Distinguished Lecturer in Labor Studies, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies

Main Street Employee Ownership Act Signed Into Law

On August 12th, historic legislation was passed in the form of the Main Street Employee Ownership Act — legislation which promises to “support small businesses that save jobs and invest in their workers and communities by transitioning to an employee-owned business form such as a cooperative (co-op) or an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).”

“We applaud this commitment to provide education, microloans, and training through the Small Business Administration, which will cultivate healthy business successions to employee ownership, saving critical business assets and keeping our communities strong and prosperous,” said Melissa Hoover, Executive Director of the Democracy at Work Institute (DAWI).  More from DAWI:

Thousands of worker cooperatives and ESOPs in the US have demonstrated that employee ownership is good for businesses, workers, and the local economy. Companies that transition to employee ownership see an increase in productivity by 4 to 5 percent,  tend to survive longer than conventional firms, and have fewer layoffs. With a more equitable pay ratio and demonstrated impacts for workers across the wage spectrum, “employee ownership has great potential to stabilize employment, to root productive capital in communities, and to increase the assets and incomes of working families,” according to the National Center for Employee Ownership.

This legislation, which improves access to capital and technical assistance for employee-owned businesses, will greatly help worker co-ops, includes directives to SBA to:

  • Finance the sale of businesses to their employees
  • Work with Small Business Development Centers across the country to provide training and education on employee ownership options
  • Report on SBA’s lending and outreach to employee-owned businesses

Labor Notes Shares Vision for Organizing in Post-Janus America

Since the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME declared required agency fees for public sector unions unconstitutional, many in the labor world and media are scrambling to ask the question: Can labor unions bounce back after Janus?

According to Labor Notes, the answer is yes — but it will require thought and a plan. The publication just released “Rebuilding Power in Open-Shop America,” offering historical context, a diagnostic tool and a prescription for how workers and their unions can remain strong and regain and rebuild power.

Check it out.

Millennials and the Labor Movement that Refuses to Die

This post was originally featured at Mobilizing Ideas.

By Ruth Milkman

Two years ago I focused my ASA Presidential address on social movements led by Millennials, building on Karl Mannheim’s classic treatise on “The Problem of Generations.”  As the first generation of “digital natives,” and the one most directly impacted by the economic precarity that emerged from the neoliberal transformation of the labor market, the Millennial generation has a distinctive life experience and worldview.  Disappointed by the false promises of racial and gender equality, and faced with skyrocketing growth in class inequality, Millennial activists embrace an explicitly intersectional political agenda.  This generation is  the most highly educated one in U.S. history, and indeed it is college-educated Millennials who have been most extensively galvanized into political activism.  My address documented their role as the dominant demographic in four high-profile 21st-century social movements:  Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, the “Dreamers” and the campus-based activism around sexual assault (which later helped spark the multi-generational “Me Too” movement).

When I researched and wrote that piece, there was little evidence of a significant Millennial presence in the organized labor movement.  In fact, young workers have  been underrepresented among labor union members for decades, in part because of the scarcity of new union organizing efforts.  But now that may be changing.  In 2017, over three-quarters of the increase in union membership was accounted for by workers under 35 years old, as a recent Economic Policy Institute post noted. (The total number of U.S. union members in 2017 rose by about 262,ooo over the previous year, although the unionization rate was unchanged.)  In addition, survey data show that Millennials express far more pro-union attitudes than their baby boomer counterparts do. Continue reading Millennials and the Labor Movement that Refuses to Die

New Labor Forum Highlights, June 25th, 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 future of public sector unions in the U.S. hangs in the balance, awaiting the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision due this week, even as soon as tomorrow. This case will decide whether public sector workers in a workplace represented by a union and benefiting from a collective bargaining agreement negotiated by that union will have to continue paying an “agency fee” to the union for the work it does on their behalf. With a public sector unionization rate five times that of the private sector rate, the expected ruling against the American Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees threatens to undermine what has been a redoubt of union strength, heightening the need for bold new ideas to rebuild the labor movement.  That is what we offer here.

We begin with a provocative think-piece (due out in our September 2018 print issue) by Larry Cohen, Board Chair of Our Revolution, the successor organization to Bernie 2016, and past President of the Communications Workers of America. Cohen argues that the future of enterprise-based collective bargaining in the U.S. is bleak, and that now’s the time to move to a sectoral bargaining system, which protects industry-wide wages and conditions of employment for workers in many other countries, from South Africa to Norway. He discusses why organized labor and progressive democrats should make universal, sectoral bargaining a top demand and why it will make other victories possible.

Next we offer a strategic proposal by Luke Elliott-Negri and Marc Kagan for what may be a new opportunity to organize the tens of thousands of public sector adjuncts in New York State in the post Janus environment. This chance for organizing results from a recent law unions managed to pass in New York, intending to blunt the expected blow of the Janus decision. Unions in states like California have made similar legislative inroads that may also offer similar promising options for organizing.

Chris Brooks weighs in on the question of whether unionists should press for a “members only” brand of unionism made more likely in the wake of the anticipated Janus decision. Examining a 2011 Tennessee law targeting teachers’ unions, Brooks cautions against embracing “members only” trade unionism and the resulting competition among unions that may vie to represent workers in the same bargaining unit. He argues that inter-union competition, which has long been promoted by strategists on the right and some on the left, more often benefits employers than workers.

With this newsletter, we take a hiatus for the summer season, returning on Labor Day. In parting, we leave you with a wildly imaginative, searing poem by Alberto Rios, Arizona’s first state poet laureate. In it, he contemplates the very nature of a border, giving us all something to ponder as we respond to the fact of the thousands of children at our border, incarcerated and separated from their parents into the unknowable future.


Table of Contents

  1. The Time Has Come for Sectoral Bargaining/ Larry Cohen, New Labor Forum
  2. An Odd Twist: Might a Response to Janus Make Adjunct Organizing Easier in New York State?/ Luke Elliott-Negri and Marc Kagan, New Labor Forum
  3. The Cure is Worse than the Disease/ Chris Brooks, New Labor Forum
  4. The Border a Double Sonnet/ Alberto Rios, New Labor Forum

Photo by Richard Gillin via flickr (CC-BY-SA)

TUED International Conference on Just Transition

By John Treat for TUED

On May 29, 2018, trade union representatives and close allies from more than a dozen countries met in New York City for TUED’s international conference, Towards a Just Transition: International Labor Perspectives on Energy, Climate and Economy.

The conference brought together more than fifty participants, from both the global North and the global South, representing 31 unions as well as 15 environmental, community-based, research and policy allies. Participants came to New York from Australia, Canada, Brazil, India, Italy, Nepal, Philippines, South Korea, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States (including Puerto Rico) and Vietnam. Many of the international participants also joined TUED’s two-day strategic retreat, which took place immediately following the conference. Continue reading TUED International Conference on Just Transition

A conversation about workers, communities and social justice

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