Readers Responses to: Thoughts on Union Structures, Labor History And Union Member Consciousness

Last week we posted a piece from Nick Unger about union structures, labor history and union member consciousness. Below, you can find seven responses from readers of The Murphy Institute Blog.  Stay tuned for Part 2 of Nick Unger’s Series, coming soon.

From Gene Carroll at The Worker Institute at Cornell

A few years back Rutgers professor Janice Fine expressed to a forum on worker centers that “labor unions are difficult to join.” Nick Unger’s deconstruction of the Wagner Act’s impact on working class mobilization and consciousness reminded me of her keen insight.  The new forms of labor organizations that have emerged (worker centers, alt. labor) with some support from but still largely independent of traditional unions, is one result of, and a reaction to, how the Wagner Act has painted unions into a corner…structurally and vision-wise.  How do we make these new organizational forms sustainable without actual collective bargaining contracts and its benefits, which exist alongside of the internal contractions Nick explores?  How can labor’s new forms of leverage help unions to become much less difficult to join?  What is the relationshiop between the previous two questions?  Thank you, brother Unger, for sharing your thinking labor.

Continue reading Readers Responses to: Thoughts on Union Structures, Labor History And Union Member Consciousness

Recap of Last Night’s Diversity Scholarship Event at The Murphy Institute

John Mogulescu Is the Senior University Dean for Academic Affairs and Dean of the School of Professional Studies

Last night  the Murphy Institute hosted the second annual Promoting Diversity and Excellence in Union Leadership and Labor Scholarship Reception.  It was a wonderful evening.  Four emerging labor leaders received the 2014 Rising Leader Awards.  That was followed by the awarding of the first five Murphy Institute Scholarships for Diversity in Labor.  The scholarships had been initiated by former Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, who provided initial financial support of $100,000 in 2013, with the possibility of an additional $400,000 depending on our ability to raise matching funds.  The overall potential for scholarships assuming that we meet the match is close to $1 million.

Chancellor Milliken kicked off the evening with greetings.  He reinforced the commitment of the University to the scholarship program, congratulated the winners and Murphy Director Greg Mantsios, and emphasized the importance of the labor movement to the city of New York.  The Chancellor was gracious and supportive.

Continue reading Recap of Last Night’s Diversity Scholarship Event at The Murphy Institute

Fall Labor Studies Classes at Murphy

The Fall 2014 classes for the MA in Labor Studies are up! Check them out below.

Collective Bargaining Theory and Practice (LABR604) 3c
Instructor: Josh Bienstock
Monday Evening

This course will provide students with a theoretical understanding of the collective bargaining process in the U.S. In addition to studying union and management theories of bargaining, students will analyze contemporary and historically significant bargaining scenarios in the private and public sectors and will develop advanced knowledge of labor relations in a variety of workplace environments. Students will examine the legal framework of collective bargaining and will study the evolution of public policy governing labor relations. In addition to studying the bargaining process and methods of contract enforcement, students will discuss alternative models of worker representation in a global economy. They will gain practical understanding by designing and participating in mock bargaining sessions.

Journalism, Media, and Labor (LABR669) 3c
Instructor: Ari Paul
Tuesday Evening

In this course will explore all aspects of labor and how it intersects with the press: How it is covered by the mainstream, how unions present their own message and how activists use new media formats in organizing campaigns. Students will be expected study, examine, and evaluate how news outlets ranging from the tabloids to business journals to public radio cover contemporary labor issues. From there we can examine how unions succeed and fail at messaging with the mainstream media. And over the course of the semester, students will be expected to follow one local labor story and cover it as if they were working journalist, rather than a union organizer.

Crises in the Public Sector (LABR669) 3c
Instructor: Ed Ott
Wednesday Evening

This course examines the contemporary issues and challenges facing the public sector workers and their organizations. In particular, the course will look at the recent state level attacks on public sector collective bargaining, privatization efforts in particular industries and the role back of the social safety net. Additionally, the course will examine the history and traditions of public employee unionism since the 1960s, review the present state of the public sector unions in the New York area, and consider possible organizational and political responses to today’s challenges.

Photo by ewe neon via flickr (CC-BY).

Getting To Know Elizabeth Hawes, 1903-1971

By Kitty Weiss Krupat

A brief profile of the American fashion designer, Elizabeth Hawes, appeared in T: The New York Times Style Magazine on Sunday, June 15. The essay, by Alice Gregory, is titled  The Most Brilliant Fashion Designer, and it starts this way:

Introducing Elizabeth Hawes: genius writer, wry cultural commentator, perverse humorist, gifted artist and truly modern thinker. You’ve never heard of her.

 Well, I, for one, have heard of her. She is the subject of my unfinished dissertation, and I agree.  She was all those things. More people should know about her, and not just because she was a pioneering fashion designer or a “premature” second-wave feminist. Elizabeth Hawes was a life-long socialist, an ardent anti-fascist, a labor advocate, and an intellectual who was always interested in issues of class. In her work, she combined aesthetic principles with political economy to produce a unique vision of fashion design.

Continue reading Getting To Know Elizabeth Hawes, 1903-1971

Thoughts on Union Structures, Labor History And Union Member Consciousness

By Nick Unger

Introduction

“Insurgent movements are not the product of hard times; they are the product of insurgent cultures.” Lawrence Goodwyn, The Populist Moment

The generation that builds it really gets it; they were there. But what of those who come later? How do they get the word? This is not a problem unique to unions. Tribes, religions, nationalities and countries, gangs, armies and political groups, all need transmission structures, creation stories and rituals to solidify identity and make membership a cultural force.

Two rival acculturation paths: education/indoctrination and periodic upheaval. The Jesuits, the medieval guild and 19th century British education systems represent the institutional approach: “Give me a child until he is seven and I’ll give you the man.”   Building trades union apprenticeship programs are perhaps the best labor example of this approach to development of a distinct identity and culture. Continue reading Thoughts on Union Structures, Labor History And Union Member Consciousness

US Labor Combating Environmental Injustices: Organizing Locally and Globally

By Eduardo Rosario

What is the history of the coalition between the labor movement and the environmental justice movement?  To answer that question, I looked at labor’s activities on environmental issues in three time periods: 1948 to 1972, 1973 to the 1990s, and the 1990s to the present.

The labor movement took the lead on many environmental concerns between 1948 and 1972, because of the space labor occupied and the resources it mustered.  Labor led the charge on such environmental concerns because the environmental justice movement was far smaller and did not command the level of resources labor possessed.  With the relative economic prosperity of this time period U.S. labor was able to be inclusive of broader social justice issues such as the environment.

In the second period after 1973, facing massive job losses, labor shifted its priorities away from broader social concerns like the environment and began to take a more concessionary posture in collective bargaining.  Economic pressures made union and non-union members alike feel vulnerable, and corporate America seized the opportunity.

Continue reading US Labor Combating Environmental Injustices: Organizing Locally and Globally

A conversation about workers, communities and social justice

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