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New Labor Forum Highlights: May 14th, 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 May 2018 issue of New Labor Forum is out. On the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, the journal features an article by Reuel Schiller measuring the magnitude of King’s loss in relation to the dissolution of the Poor People’s Movement he helped birth and the subsequent suspension in large-scale, multiracial organizing for economic justice.

Today may mark the beginning of the end of that long hiatus. As we send this newsletter off, The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, launches a nation-wide event including nonviolent moral direct actions in over 30 state capitals, and a series of similar actions that will take place over the next 40 days. This follows two years of meetings in communities throughout the country which led to a report, entitled “The Souls of Poor Folk: Auditing America 50 Years After the Poor People’s Campaign Challenged Racism, Poverty, the War Economy/Militarism and Our National Morality.” Those conversations in turn resulted in a Declaration of Fundamental Rights and Poor People’s Moral Agenda. We include here a profile of the campaign’s co-founder, the Reverend William Barber, by Jelani Cobb in the current issue of The New Yorker, as well as a report on the campaign that ran over NPR earlier this morning.

As the Poor People’s Campaign seeks to end the poverty that plagues approximately 40 million Americans, we would all do well to reassess the War on Poverty, declared by President Lyndon Johnson four years before Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.  In a 2014 article for New Labor Forum, Frances Fox Piven argues that, contrary to accepted wisdom, that the War on Poverty was a largely victorious engagement which mobilized pressure from below reinforced by the Democratic Party’s need to shore up its dwindling political reach in the North, producing a measurable reduction in poverty over the next twenty years. Yet now, Piven notes, not only is poverty back, but the faces of poverty have changed. The most telling difference is that, when Michael Harrington wrote The Other America and Lyndon Johnson took up arms, poverty was thought to afflict people cut off from employment in the mainstream economy, like older people no longer working or those living in Appalachia or the country’s urban ghettos.  Today poverty has become, as it once was back in the 19th century, a function of exploitation at work (not mostly exclusion from work) so that somewhere between 30 and 40 million people make up what we call “the working poor.” And it is this changed nature of poverty that the new Poor People’s Campaign explicitly intends to address.

Table of Contents

  1. Mourning King: The Civil Rights Movement and the Fight for Economic Justice/ Reuel Schiller, New Labor Forum
  2. William Barber Takes on Poverty and Race in the Age of Trump/ Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker
  3. 50 Years Later, Reviving King’s Poor People’s Campaign/ Brakkton Booker, NPR Radio
  4. The Changing Faces of Poverty and Inequality: How We Once Came to Fight a War on Poverty/ Frances Fox Piven,  New Labor Forum
  5. The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival Portfolio/ JustSeeds Artists’ Cooperative
  6. Scholarship for Diversity in Labor Awards & Reception/ Joseph S. Murphy Institute

Photo credit: Department of the Interior. National Park Service(II). Region VI, National Capital Region. (1916 – 1933), Photographer – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (Public Domain)

New Labor Forum Highlights: Nov 27th, 2017

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.

Table of Contents

  1. Open Borders Debate/ Dan La Botz/ Ana Avendaño
  2. “Identity Politics” Debate/ Walter Benn Michaels/ Alethia Jones
  3. New Voting DemographicsG. Cristina Mora & Michael Rodríguez-Muñiz/ Richard Alba
  4. New Labor Forum 20th Anniversary Event/ The Murphy Institute

New Labor Forum Highlights: June 12th, 2017

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.

With this installment of Highlights from New Labor Forum, we draw your attention to a roundup of notable books and films you might have missed. We’re grateful to NLF contributor Matt Witt for his excellent curatorial skills, which are a regular feature of his “Out of the Mainstream” for the print journal! Among the books Witt points to in his forthcoming inventory is Look, an arresting book of poetry by Solmaz Sharif. Born in Istanbul to Iranian parents, Sharif is a former participant in Poetry for the People, and arts/activism program founded at UC Berkeley by the late, great poet June Jordan. The sampling of her work included here, offers precise and unforgettable depictions of the dread brought about by our wars on terror.

Table of Contents

  1. Out of the Mainstream: Books and Films You May Have Missed by Matt Witt / New Labor Forum, September 2017 issue
  2. Poems by Solmaz Sharif

New Labor Forum Highlights: May 30th, 2017

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.

Ah, summer! Time for conferencing, summit-ing and gathering for organizers, activists, and left-leaning academics. New Labor Forum has done the hard work of curating some of the more important upcoming events on our radar that we think you’ll be interested in. While attending a conference is usually a major expense, increasingly the organizers are using livestreamed video and social media to make remote, online participation a reality. All of the events listed below are also agenda-setting opportunities for their constituencies, so it’s worth following to see what  new thinking is emerging.

We’re not ranking by order of importance, and would love to see the events we missed that you think ought to be mentionedon our website. We’ll be updating the link to this list with your suggestions. Get ready to learn more about Left Forum, The People’s Summit, Allied Media Conference, the Labor and Working-Class History Conference, the Working-Class Studies Association Annual Conference, the National Urban League Conference, Netroots Nation, and the Personal Democracy Forum.

Table of Contents

  1. Conferences on the Left
  2. Labor Studies Conferences
  3. Broad Political & Constituency Conferences
  4. Immigration Policy in the Trump Era (VIDEO) with Muzaffar Chishti, Director of the Migration Policy Institute

Photo via National Nurses United/Twitter