New Labor Forum, first published in September 1997, was founded to contribute to the new possibilities for debate and discussion among labor and its allies in the wake of the AFL-CIO’s first ever contested elections in 1995. In those heady days, the New Voice leadership at the federation proclaimed its commitment to large-scale union organizing and ambitious coalition building with working-class communities, and particularly communities of color. It simultaneously engaged in a rapprochement spurred by Left intellectuals and progressive political activists who had for decades been excluded from the AFL-CIO’s strategic discussions. These efforts gave rise to widespread hopes that organized labor might help ignite a broad, national movement for social and economic justice. On the twentieth anniversary of the journal’s founding, we will host an assessment of those earlier ambitions, examining the complex reasons why they have borne such meager results. We will also examine the current challenges and possibilities for building a progressive movement capable of confronting a thoroughly financialized economy of highly concentrated wealth, precarious work and unabated racial disparity, and a political system in the vice grip of corporate interests in which a multi-racial working-class alliance remains a distant hope.
Stephen Lerner – Organizing in the New Economy: What are the principal features of the new economy that workers and working-class communities must now confront? What does this suggest about new forms that organizing should take?
Phil Thompson and Liza Featherstone – Debate: What is required to build a multi-racial working-class political movement?
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.
We are currently marking the 20th year of publication of New Labor Forum. At first glance, the conditions in which we find ourselves today seem a far cry from those that gave birth to New Labor Forum twenty years ago. The journal’s inaugural editorial statement, back in the fall of 1997, began by declaring, “This is a time of hope,” a mood that then felt palpable among labor activists. In the wake of the AFL-CIO’s first ever contested elections in 1995, the New Voice leadership at the federation had proclaimed its commitment to large-scale union organizing and ambitious coalition building with social justice organizations that had also been in decline since the late seventies, but would be essential to resuscitating a movement. At the same time, organized labor began to engage in a rapprochement with and spurred by left intellectuals and progressive political activists who had for decades been excluded from the AFL-CIO’s strategic discussions. All these efforts gave rise to widespread hopes that organized labor might also help fuel a broader, national movement for social and economic justice.
Yet, even in those days, there was a keen sense that the revitalization of the labor movement and the building of working-class political power would be a tough row to hoe. In that same editorial statement of 1997, we acknowledged, “The journal is both a response to this new optimism and a recognition of the difficulties that lie ahead.” The journal therefore went on, for the next two decades, to debate and discuss the thorniest questions at the heart of the hoped for, yet still allusive, revitalization of the labor movement. Those issues included: the financialization of the economy, the dramatic growth of low wage service and precarious work, the decline of strikes, the rise of union busting, burgeoning rates of incarceration, debates about race and class, immigration policy, feminism and the labor movement, the movement for LGBTQ rights, union democracy and union structure, labor’s marriage to the Democratic Party, labor’s relationship to wars without end, to Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter, two waves of health care reform, and the climate change crisis. In this installment of our newsletter we offer three such debates we have hosted over the years, and an invitation to you to attend our 20th Anniversary Event on December 8, 2017, 5:30 p.m. at The Murphy Institute.
The New Labor Forum has launched 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.
New Labor Forum continues to discuss and debate the macro-economic and social forces that have contributed to the rightward shift in our national politics — among them, gaping wealth and income gaps, the outsourcing and downsizing of jobs in union-dense industries, the scapegoating of immigrants, and persistent forms of racism. Exacerbating the impact of those larger forces has been a strategic, highly effective effort known for over two centuries as gerrymandering. During the past seven years, the art of redrawing election districts for political gain has become a fairly exact science in the hands of right-wing super PACs and the Republicans they back.
Here we turn our attention to this radical right endeavor following the 2010 Census, offering a video clip from a recent talk at the Murphy Institute by David Daley, author of Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count. We also provide a report by the Brennan Center for Justice, entitled Extreme Maps, which closely tracks the manipulation of election district lines, with greatest effects in seven states: Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia. The Brennan Center joins the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund and dozens of other organizations that have filed amicus briefs in support of appellants in Gill v. Whitford, the most important case on the constitutionality of gerrymandering in over a decade, now under consideration by the Supreme Court. Included here is a Slate piece by Mark Joseph Stern reporting on the case’s hearing on October 3rd.
Are you a student or recent alumni of the Murphy Institute? Well we want your essays!
New Labor Forum, the Murphy Institute’s journal of ideas, analysis and debate, is excited to announce a new Essay Contest for currently enrolled students and alumni that have graduated in the past two years.
We invite original essays (neither previously published, nor under consideration for publication elsewhere) on a wide range of topics regarding contemporary working-class life and communities, the politics and policies bearing on those communities, and worker organizing taking place in and outside of organized labor.
Essays may be first person accounts, or scholarly and analytical pieces. We encourage fresh thinking on crucial challenges, provocative and well-grounded arguments, and/or efforts to wrestle with new and concrete information. Contributors should avoid jargon, assumptions, technical language, “academese,” and well-worn rhetoric. For examples of past NLF articles, visit our website.
On October 13th, 2017, the Murphy Institute hosted a forum exploring the nature and causes of the current mass transit crisis, and focusing on solutions that could enable New York to sustain itself as a world-class city.
Kafui Attoh, Assistant Professor of Urban Studies, Murphy Institute
Robert Paaswell, Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering, City College of New York and Director Emeritus, University Transportation Research Center (UTRC)
Pierina Ana Sanchez, Directer, New York, Regional Planning Association
Andrew Bata, Regional Manager North America, International Association of Public Transport (UITP)
City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of the Committee on Transportation
The right-wing’s decades-long attack on public sector unionism is slated for a hearing before the Supreme Court later this fall in the Janus v. AFSCME case. The September 2017 issue of New Labor Forum contemplates the probable implications and strategic options facing public sector unions once the ruling is handed down.
Also under contemplation in the Fall 2017 issue is the historically troubled, but occasionally productive, relationship between organized labor and civil rights organizations. Strengthening that alliance in the years ahead will prove critical to the fate of labor and racial justice movements. The journal examines the historical obstacles to such alliances, and suggests new grounds on which to reinvigorate those efforts under current circumstances.