By Ella Mahony
Residents of Cambridge, MA often playfully call the city “The People’s Republic of Cambridge”, a tongue-in-cheek reference to its lefty politics and multicultural vibe. But the city is also well known for hosting a worldwide bastion of privilege and power, Harvard University. It is that paradox that is playing out right now at “Harvard’s Hotel”, the Hilton Doubletree Suites hotel owned by the university that lies only a mile away.
It is at the Doubletree that hotel workers have been organizing for a fair process to decide on a union with Unite-Here! Local 26, Boston’s hospitality and food service workers union. Leading the charge have been the female housekeepers that do most of the hotel’s drudge work, many of whom are immigrant women of color. They are fighting, among other things, for better insurance and a safer workplace, one where they are not expected to put their health at risk to turn over more rooms. Most importantly, they are fighting for respect and a chance for their work to be recognized. Continue reading Leaning In and Fighting Back
Kafui Attoh is an Assistant Professor of Urban Studies at the Murphy Institute.
The World Cup is upon us! All praise be to FIFA! In less than a week, millions of people worldwide will tune into what promises to be the largest global bread and circus event of the year. Indeed, an estimated half a million fans will descend on Brazil itself — no doubt, to partake in the spectacle first hand. As is now common with these mega events, the World Cup boasts its own theme song — a predictably forgettable anthem by J-Lo and Pitbull called “We Are One (Ole Ola).” It will also have its own cuddly mascot — Fuleco, an anime-inspired “three-banded Armadillo.” Reportedly, Fuleco is modeled on an endangered species native to Brazil.
With all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster, the World Cup is a big deal. For the host nation, the finances alone are absurd. Since “winning” the right to host the tournament seven years ago, Brazil has spent $11.3 billion on Cup related infrastructure projects. Many of these projects — despite the desperate need for hospitals and better transit — have been limited to new arenas and new stadiums. An additional $800 million has been spent on security alone as roughly 170,000 security personnel have been dispatched across the country to regulate crowds and secure arenas. “Ordem without Progresso,” as Brazilians might say.
Continue reading The World Cup: Panem et Circenses et Transit (Killjoy Alert!)
This post was written by Penny Lewis, an Assistant Professor of Labor Studies at The Murphy Institute
For the second time in two weeks the New York Times has devoted its lead news story to reports about our unfolding environmental cataclysm. Last week’s lead brought home the fact that climate change is happening now, covering reports that track contemporary shifts in temperature and rainfall across the United States. Yesterday’s story, far removed from our borders, is even more disturbing: the western ice sheet of Antarctica is fatally compromised, and the oceans will rise at least 4 feet this century from this alone. Quite possibly they will rise much more, and most certainly much more – 10-12 feet – in the following period.
If you’re like me, you read these stories with a churning set of feelings: powerlessness, frustration that approaches rage, a sense of profound loss. And you might also find yourself revisiting the same question: how can we engage this central problem of our time?
Continue reading Precarious Solidarity – Labor and The Environmental Movement
Written by James Parrott, the Chief Economist at the Fiscal Policy Institute
For the first time in nearly five years, major labor agreements were recently reached covering public sector workers in New York City. On April 17, Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 concluded a new 5-year contract dating from January 2012 covering 34,000 workers at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), most of whom work for the subway and bus system in New York City. Two weeks later on May 1, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) reached a 9-year agreement with the City of New York stretching back to November 2009 that affects over 100,000 public school teachers and support staff.
Both contracts represented a breakthrough in ending managements’ demands for a 3-year wage freeze that had grown out of a counter-productive post-Great Recession conservative infatuation with public sector austerity, or more precisely, a mindset that held that workers had to sacrifice to help clean up the economic mess caused by financial sector excesses.
Continue reading The Significance of the TWU and UFT Labor Contracts
Penny Lewis is an Assistant Professor of Labor Studies at The Murphy Institute
Years of organizing, agitating, occupying and strategizing have brought the issue of low wage and precarious work to the forefront of contemporary economic discussion. Fast food and retail are not the only sectors where such low wage work has become the norm: higher education is increasingly structured along the same logic. One of the central slogans taken up by students and professors at today’s May Day march and rally is “May Day $5K” – a call for a minimum payment of $5,000 per college class taught by part-time and contingent faculty. This demand is being made alongside calls for job security, health benefits, and other improved working conditions for the contingent instructional staff that now comprises 75 percent of all college faculty members. Shamefully, CUNY pays adjuncts closer to $3,000 per class, and it’s not an outlier.
Continue reading Faculty of the World, Unite?