Tag Archives: New Labor Forum

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)

New Labor Forum Highlights: June 11th, 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.

In this newsletter, we turn our attention to the suburbs. And for good reason, since that’s where slightly over half of U.S. residents currently live. You may have noticed that today’s suburban dwellers increasingly don’t conform to the mythic image of the suburbanite. By 2013, 61 percent of all immigrants to the U.S. lived in the suburbs, and that percentage continues to increase. And, rather than the prized destination of prolonged efforts to escape urban ghettos, many of these suburbs are where immigrants settle upon arrival. Partly as a result of these trends, the last census showed suburban poverty to have grown at more than twice the rate of urban poverty.

In the current issue of New Labor Forum, Phil Neel describes this new suburban landscape: where once there were only bedrooms and commuter trains, now there are factories, warehouses, distribution centers, and sometimes blasted waste-lands lacking many of the essential services, like child care and public transportation, more common to cities.  He argues that one need look no further than Ferguson, Missouri for evidence that conditions now prevalent in suburbs will contain new challenges, as well as new possibilities, to spur movements for social and economic justice. For all of these reasons, anyone interested in the nation’s social and political future would do well to study suburbia. Toward that end, we also offer a recent report on the challenges of suburban poverty by Margaret Weir, as well as a review of Lorrie Frasure-Yokely’s Racial and Ethnic Politics in American Suburbs, the 2016 winner of two national book awards.

Table of Contents

  1. The New Geography of Suburbia/ Phil A. Neel, New Labor Forum
  2. The Rising Challenge of Poverty in the Suburbs/ Margaret Weir, Scholars Strategy Network
  3. The Changing Face of the U.S. Suburbs/ Josh Fox, Harris Public Policy- The University of Chicago

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski via flickr (CC-BY-SA)

New Labor Forum Highlights: April 30th, 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 wildly successful teachers’ strike in West Virginia earlier this spring has not only inspired walkouts in Oklahoma, Kentucky, Colorado and Arizona, but has managed to turn the tide in the all-important realm of public opinion.  According to a recent survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, a full 78 percent of Americans believe that teachers are underpaid. And remarkably, slightly more than half approve of teachers’ strikes to defend public education and protest low pay. Given the fact that members of teachers’ unions currently represent fully a quarter of all union members nationwide, this growing support for teachers holds extra importance.

Here, we offer a piece by New Labor Forum Editor-at-Large Steve Fraser, who examines the conditions that have caused red state teachers to shed the respectability and ambiguity of middle-class status to wage a working-class rebellion. And in a piece written for today’s newsletter, Chris Brooks suggests what teachers’ unions will have to do to keep up with a movement spurred by the rank-and-file, in defense not just of themselves, but also of the children and communities they serve. We also include an op-ed by Paul Krugman, who reveals how the tax cutting protocol of right-wing state governments has led to wage and benefit cuts for teachers and four-day school weeks and substandard conditions for students. And these circumstances, it seems, have finally caused the broader public to reject the conservative propensity to scapegoat teachers for the failures of a public education system plagued by unequal funding and fiscal austerity. We will continue to assess the lessons and inspiration this uprising offers a debilitated labor movement and political movements of the burgeoning resistance.

Table of Contents

  1. Teaching America a Lesson/ Steve Fraser, TomDispatch.com
  2. What Should Unions Do After The Strike Wave?/ Chris Brooks, New Labor Forum
  3. We Don’t Need No Education/ Paul Krugman, The New York Times
  4. Amid Strikes, Americans back teacher raises/ The Associated Press, NORC Center for Public Affairs Research

Photo by Charles Edward Miller via flickr (CC-BY-SA)

New Labor Forum Highlights: April 17th, 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.

This newsletter appears one week in advance of the fifth anniversary of Rana Plaza garment factory collapse, the worst disaster in the history of factory-based garment production. Evidence had been legion of the construction defects of the Rana Plaza factories in the Dhaka District of Bangladesh. In fact, on the morning of April 24th, some of the 3,639 Rana Plaza workers had pointed out large cracks in the factory walls and refused to enter.  Factory owner, Sohel Rana, is reported to have threatened the circumspect workers with non payment for the month of April and, with hired goons, forced their entry into the building. Less than an hour later, 1,135 workers perished in the collapsing buildings.

In their trenchant article for New Labor Forum, Rich Appelbaum and Nelson Lichtenstein reveal the great degree of integration between corporate brands and retailers and the manufacturers of the global south that source their product. This global supply chain functions under a legal regime that absolves those brands and retailers of responsibility for the substandard pay and working conditions that undergirds this business model.

This week, from April 18-24, students, union members, consumers, and activists around the world will participate in a Global Week of Action calling on apparel brands to sign the 2018 Accord, a promising initiative discussed in the Appelbaum and Lichtenstein article, to hold powerful retailers and brands responsible for working conditions in supplier factories. In the United States, demonstrations will take place at A&F stores around the country on Saturday, April 21.

Table of Contents

  1. An Accident in History/ Rich Appelbaum and Nelson Lichtenstein, New Labor Forum
  2. Global Week of Action/ United Students Against Sweatshops
  3. Are factories better in Bangladesh after Rana Plaza? That depends on who you ask/ Andrea Crossan and Jasmine Garsd, Public Radio International, The World
  4. “Rana Plaza” Poem/ Eileen Ridge

Photo by rijans via flickr (CC-BY-SA)

New Labor Forum Highlights: Feb. 5th, 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 neoliberal trend that has corporatized higher education and made of it a brave new world of contingent faculty labor has also given rise to an ethos of student consumerism that acts, on occasion, to persecute that precarious workforce. In the winter 2018 issue of New Labor Forum, Joshua Sperber takes a close look at the “Rate My Professor” website which functions in just this way, as a kind of online disciplinarian, intimidating and humiliating  an academic precariat whose intellectual labors are subject to the whims of the marketplace.

Unsurprisingly, these conditions have continued to spark nationwide campaigns among contingent faculty to raise wages, secure benefits, increase job security, and defend academic freedom. In an article for New Labor Forum and in a talk delivered at the Murphy Institute, Malini Cadambi Daniel assesses the prospects of this organizing to reconfigure campuses as neither ivory towers nor sweatshops.

We also draw your attention to the work of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at CUNY’s Hunter College. From April 15 – 17, 2018, the National Center will host a conference entitled Facing New Realities in Higher Education and the Professions, featuring David Weil and other prominent scholars.

Table of Contents

1. Making the Grade: Rating Professors- Joshua Sperber/ New Labor Forum
2. Contingent Faculty of the World Unite! Organizing to Resist the Corporatization of Higher Education-Malini Cadambi Daniel/ New Labor Forum
3. Lessons in Adjunct Organizing- Video of talk by Malini Cadambi Daniel/ The Murphy Institute
4. 45th Annual National Conference: Facing New Realities in Higher Education and the Professions, April 15-17, 2018-The National Center/ Hunter College, CUNY

Photo by Timothy Krause via flickr (CC-BY)

New Labor Forum Congratulates the Winner of the Student Essay Contest!

Congratulations to Alyssa Bonilla on her winning essay, “Janus, the Roman God, and the Labor Movement”!

Essay contest winner Alyssa Bonilla

New Labor Forum hosted its first Student Essay Contest in the Fall and we are happy to announce that we received three outstanding submissions from students and recent alumni. While all three submissions were excellent, we selected the piece, “Janus, the Roman God, and the Labor Movement” by Alyssa Bonilla as the winner. Bonilla’s article will appear in the May issue of the journal. Thank you to everyone who helped make the contest a success! We look forward to running it again next Fall.

From the essay:

“The Janus case pending before the Supreme Court is an important moment in the ongoing battle between labor and capital in America. Labor is anticipating the case with dread. Capital anticipates a major victory. The case is invoking familiar legal arguments such as constitutional questions, the rights of the individual and fair pay for services rendered. There is, however, another lens through which one might view this case, a symbolic lens, that may open up our collective thinking about the issues involved, clarifying the strategies needed to move forward.”

Look forward to the full piece in the May issue of the New Labor Forum!

Alyssa Bonilla, M.A. in Labor Studies, is a graduate of the Murphy Institute and lives in New York City.  Ms. Bonilla teaches at Queens College, CUNY and Empire State College, SUNY. She can be reached at alyssa[dot]bonilla[at]esc[dotedu