By Steve Brier
One of the persistent tragedies in the history of the U.S. labor movement has been the repeated opposition of unions to organizing new immigrant workers into their ranks. Not only the old AFL, but even the more progressive and inclusive Knights of Labor, attacked new immigrants (the Chinese, in the case of the Knights), refusing to organize them into their ranks and even working politically to restrict the entry of international workers into the U.S. Those moments when the labor movement shed its xenophobia and actually organized immigrant workers — the 1919 steel strike and the early CIO organizing drives in basic industry — stand out as beacons of light and organizing success in an otherwise grim and dark history of exclusion and labor defeat. Even the contemporary AFL-CIO, as recently as the late 1980s and early 1990s, actively opposed organizing the rising numbers of immigrants from Asia and Latin America entering the U.S. workforce, precisely at the moment that the labor movement was in sharp decline in the face of employer and government intransigence and attacks. Continue reading Organized Labor Hopes to Grow by Helping Immigrants Gain Citizenship
By Stanley Aronowitz
As previously reported on this blog, two weeks ago, the School Reform Commission appointed by Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett unilaterally cancelled the union contract of 15,000 Philadelphia teachers and staff personnel. The union president Jerry Jordan promised to “fight” the brazen action of the commission. Later in the week a number of the city’s union leaders met to consider mass action to protest and hopefully reverse the decision. Jordan said that direct action such as a general strike must await the union’s efforts to exhaust its legal options. The assembly bowed to his caution. But parents and teachers demonstrated at City Hall anyway.
However, as in Madison Wisconsin almost three years ago when 100,000 public employees occupied the state capitol to protest the right-wing Republican governor and his legislative allies to strip them of bargaining rights, the union leaders called off the protest. Instead they supported a Democratic Party proposal to recall Governor Walker and four of his Republican senators. The recall failed to unseat the governor and two of his allies, so the recall failed. But similar efforts to thwart direct action in Ferguson, Mo. by substituting a voter registration campaign were rejected by many black people protesting the murder of Michael Brown. The streets are still crowded with protesters. Continue reading Legal Appeals & Partial Strategies: Labor at the Crossroads
By Sarah Hughes
Union Semester is underway again! 15 students have joined us from 5 states, 2 countries, and 4 New York City boroughs for an intensive semester-long immersion in the world of worker justice.
Continue reading New York Union Semester Fall 2014
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).
Last fall, the Murphy Institute launched a B.A. in Urban and Community Studies. The program focuses on public policy, the delivery of services, and improving the quality of life for communities and working-class populations. Students in the program use methods and perspectives from sociology, economics, political science, history, and anthropology to analyze the conditions of cities, neighborhoods, and communities within a globalizing economy and culture. Our students have opportunities for experiential and applied learning, including fieldwork and workplace-based projects in New York City — our classroom.
Etinosa Emokpae is one of our students and had a chance this summer to intern at a community-based organization in Harlem that engages residents to address environmental justice/public health issues and find solutions. In this piece, she shares some of her impressions.
I’d like to recount my amazing experience in the Urban Studies Fieldwork seminar, which was co-taught by Professors James Steele and Eve Baron. The seminar allows students to intern at a public agency or community organization that fits their interests. Continue reading Community Organizing with WE ACT
By Joshua Freeman
In a Labor Day op-ed article in the NY Daily News, I argued that even as unions have suffered a series of setbacks and continue to slip in the percentage of workers they represent, labor issues are more prominent now than at any time in the recent past. What we are seeing might be called the re-emergence of “the labor question.” (New York is somewhat exceptional because, as the Murphy Institute’s Ruth Milkman and Stephanie Luce show in a forthcoming study reported in The New York Times, union membership in the city has been rising significantly of late.)
“The labor question” was once a common term, widely used in the early 20th century. On the simplest level, it asked how orderly relations could be maintained between employers and employees, preventing the outbursts of labor strife that had become common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Continue reading The Labor Question