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.
While important revelations of workplace sexual harassment committed by men in the entertainment industry continue to come to light, we take this occasion to consider the ubiquitous and nearly invisible harassment faced by the women who are most tethered to their jobs and least able to access legal remedies. They labor in fast food joints, hotels, secretarial jobs, farms, hospitals, and night shift janitorial jobs. For a host of reasons, their sexual harassment, assault and rape go largely unreported.* This abuse sometimes motivates them to organize, says New Labor Forum Editorial Member Kate Bronfenbrenner, “But it can be a reason women don’t organize,” she explains in a Boston Globe article on sexual harassment within unions. Lin Farley, journalist, author, and coiner of the term “sexual harassment,” suggests that employers may also use sexual harassment to fend off union drives: “You have young girls, working-class kids for the most part, trying to get jobs in fast food places, because they have to work. And you have fast food managers systematically using sexual harassment to keep turn-over high, so they don’t have to unionize, they don’t have to give high wages. . . . Its one of the huge scandals going on in America today.” Continue reading New Labor Forum Highlights: Nov. 13th, 2017→
As recently as 2014, just 22 percent of my co-workers were members of our chapter in our big wall-to-wall union. The rest—some 1,242 employees—paid the “agency fee,” which for us is the same as membership dues. The chapter had been defunct for several years. Few bothered to explain to new employees why it mattered to join and what power might come from engagement.
If they haven’t won a contract by 3pm today, 40,000 AT&T workers will go on strike. Coming on the heels of last year’s Verizon strike, this marks another potentially historic action for the Communications Workers of America (CWA) — and the workers have much cause for grievance. From David Bacon at In These Times:
In California and Nevada, around 17,000 AT&T workers who provide phone, landline and cable services have been working without a contract for more than a year. Last year, they voted to authorize a strike with more than 95 percent support. And in February, an estimated 21,000 AT&T Mobility workers in 36 states voted to strike as well, with 93 percent in favor.
Workers have issued an ultimatum, giving company executives until 3 p.m. ET on Friday to present serious proposals—or the workers will walk.
It wouldn’t be the first strike at AT&T. Some 17,000 workers in California and Nevada walked off the job in late March to protest company changes in their working conditions in violation of federal law. After a one-day strike, AT&T agreed not to require technicians to perform work assignments outside of their expertise. Nevertheless, the biggest issues for workers remained unresolved.
AT&T is the largest telecommunications company in the country with $164 billion in sales and 135 million wireless customers nationwide. It has eliminated 12,000 call center jobs in the United States since 2011, representing more than 30 percent of its call center employees, and closed more than 30 call centers. Meanwhile, the company has outsourced the operation of more than 60 percent of its wireless retail stores to operators who pay much less than the union wage, according to CWA.
Thursday, March 23 | 6pm-8pm Murphy Institute 25 W. 43 Street, 18th Floor New York, NY
Can’t make it in person? Watch the livestream here:
Across the country, people are organizing in growing numbers. Who is participating? What kind of organizing is happening? Is this resistance different than what the world has seen before? What are the prospects of sustained resistance?
Join us for a discussion on the resistance with internationally renowned social scientist, scholar, and activist, Frances Fox Piven. She is a Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology, CUNY Graduate School, and Distinguished Lecturer in Labor Studies at the Murphy Institute, author and co-author of more than 200 articles published in academic journals, books, popular publications and journals of opinion since 1965. Her most recent book is Who’s Afraid of Frances Fox Piven? The Essential Writings of the Professor Glenn Beck Loves to Hate. Read more.
Yesterday afternoon, fast-food executive Andrew Puzder announced that he would be withdrawing his nomination to be the next US labor secretary. This came on the heels of last week’s announcement that Puzder was being sued via class-action lawsuit for an illegal wage-fixing scheme at his Carl’s Jr. restaurants.