Category Archives: Labor Studies

Labor Studies

Labor Studies offers graduate degree and certificate programs that examine the opportunities and challenges facing workers and their organizations. The program builds critical thinking, analytical, and leadership skills so that students become more effective advocates for workers’ rights and social justice. Learn more here.

What’s the Deal with Tariffs?

When the president starts talking trade protectionism, it can be hard to know how to evaluate his rhetoric. SLU professor Stephanie Luce untangled some of the history and policy particulars of the thorny subject of tariffs for Organizing Upgrade:

Donald Trump voiced the real concerns of many Americans when he spoke of the need to bring jobs to communities and to end unfair trade deals. By blocking the Trans-Pacific Partnership, pushing a re-negotiation of NAFTA, and increasing tariffs on a range of imports, Trump has appeared to finally take seriously the needs of unemployed and underemployed workers. Some unions have been calling for tariffs for years, most notably the United Steelworkers. While Obama ran in 2008 on a promise to renegotiate NAFTA he never did so, and in fact became a relentless proponent of expanding “free trade.” Meanwhile, the Trump administration recently announced details of the draft deal with Mexico, and it appears to contain benefits for U.S. and Mexican workers.

So is Trump the worker’s hero? Will increased tariffs return jobs to the US? The left has been weak on this issue. On the one hand, we need to take economic development and job creation seriously. Workers are suffering. Even though official unemployment rates are low, more and more of the jobs people hold are low-wage, insecure, non-union, and dead-end. The left lacks a real program to address the real concerns of those impacted by trade deals. We need to better understand the history of tariffs and trade, and we need an international vision for economic development.

Read the article here.

Photo by M Cheung via flickr (cc)

Video: Energy from Unlikely Sources

On Friday, October 12th, members of the wider SLU community gathered to ask big questions about the future of the labor movement.

For more than a quarter century, workers and the U.S. labor movement have sustained significant setbacks, including the broad expansion of “right-to-work” conditions; the increasing use by employers of vehicles that enable them to shirk standard employer responsibilities; and the Supreme Court’s tendency to prioritize employers’ property rights over worker rights. Despite these trends, 61 percent of Americans view unions favorably; organizing and unionization among young workers is surging, with three-quarters of new union members in 2017 being under 35 years old; and 2018 saw the largest wildcat strikes in decades, with teacher walkouts in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Arizona challenging wage stagnation and school funding cutbacks. What does this imply about the possibilities and struggles ahead for labor? What are strategic options that would enable organized labor to succeed at mass organizing and to join forces with racial and economic justice organizations to become a movement?

It was a wide-ranging and probing conversation featuring Lauren Jacobs, Deputy Director, The Partnership for Working Families; Marilyn Sneiderman, Executive Director, Center for Innovation in Worker Organization, Rutgers University;
Larry Cohen, Chair, Board of Directors, Our Revolution, former president of Communications Workers of America (CWA); Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director, ALIGN NY; and SLU’s own Penny Lewis.

Report Release: Results from the Human Services Workforce Study (10/11)

Thu, October 11, 2018
8:30 AM – 10:30 AM EDT
Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, 2180 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10035

RSVP HERE

The results are in! Join us on October 11, 2018 for the community roll-out of the Human Service Workforce Study, sponsored by the Human Services Council, Silberman School of Social Work, and the Touro College Graduate School of Social Work.

The Report, Business as Usual? A Wake-Up Call for The Human Services, reflects the experience of nearly 3,000 frontline NYC human services workers who assess how business principles and practices in their agencies affect service delivery and the values and mission of the social work profession. The important findings of this hot-off-the press study of NYC human services workplaces will be presented by the authors:

  • Mimi Abramovitz, DSW, Bertha Capen Reynolds Professor of Social Policy, Silberman School of Social Work, Hunter College, CUNY
  • Jennifer Zelnick, Sc.D, Professor of Social Work, Touro College Graduate School of Social Work

Three panelists will present their doctoral research–case studies based on their practice in child welfare, domestic violence, and substance abuse agencies. Their reports highlight how Abramovitz and Zelnick’s findings play out in specific human service settings.

PANELISTS

  • Jocelyn Lewiskin PhD, MSW LCSW, Psychotherapist in Private Practice, Former: Program Manager HIV and Substance Abuse Clinician, Center for Comprehensive Health Practice; PhD (2018) Social Welfare Doctoral Program, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
  • Deborah Mullin PhD, MS, LMSW, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Silberman School of Social Work. Hunter College, Former Director of Family Services at Community Training and Education (antipoverty organization) , Former Director of Non-Residential Services at Hope’s Door (DV agency); PhD (2017) PhD in Social Work. Graduate School of Social Services Fordham University
  • Rita Sanchez-Torres, PhD, MALS MPhil, Program Director Prevention Program, Good Shepherd Services; PhD (2018) Social Welfare Doctoral Program, The Graduate Center City University of New York

Click here to view all presenters’ bios.

Be part of a dialogue with your colleagues to explore the impact of these findings for your agencies, professional practice, and clients and consider fresh approaches to improving service delivery.

Photo by Anthony Quintano via flickr (CC-BY)

Event: Energy From Unlikely Sources: Opportunities For New Organizing (10/12)

Fri, October 12, 2018
8:30 AM – 10:30 AM EDT
CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies
25 W. 43rd Street, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10036

RSVP HERE

For more than a quarter century, workers and the U.S. labor movement have sustained significant setbacks, including the broad expansion of “right-to-work” conditions; the increasing use by employers of vehicles that enable them to shirk standard employer responsibilities; and the Supreme Court’s tendency to prioritize employers’ property rights over worker rights. Despite these trends, 61 percent of Americans view unions favorably; organizing and unionization among young workers is surging, with three-quarters of new union members in 2017 being under 35 years old; and 2018 saw the largest wildcat strikes in decades, with teacher walkouts in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Arizona challenging wage stagnation and school funding cutbacks. What does this imply about the possibilities and struggles ahead for labor? What are strategic options that would enable organized labor to succeed at mass organizing and to join forces with racial and economic justice organizations to become a movement?

Speakers Include:

Lauren Jacobs, Deputy Director, The Partnership for Working Families

Prior to joining PWF, Jacobs worked with the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC) as the National Organizing Director, and served as an organizer with UNITE and later SEIU. She organized thousands of previously non-union workers in three major metropolitan areas, and led campaigns that resulted in breakthroughs in wages, healthcare and other benefits.

Marilyn Sneiderman, Executive Director, Center for Innovation in Worker Organization, Rutgers University

Sneiderman has directed the National AFL-CIO’s Department of Field Mobilization, launching the national “Union Cities” initiative. Sneiderman served as Executive Director of AVODAH, Education Director at the Teamsters, faculty at the George Meany Center for Labor Studies and Georgetown Law School, and was an organizer and rank and file leader at AFSCME.

Larry Cohen, Chair, Board of Directors, Our Revolution, former president of Communications Workers of America (CWA)

Cohen is the former president of the Communications Workers of America. Cohen chaired major contract negotiations in the public and private sectors, including at Verizon and AT&T. He built alliances and support for telecom workers around the world, including in Mexico, Taiwan, South Africa, Germany and other countries. He is a founder of Jobs with Justice.

Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director, ALIGN NY

Silva-Farrell played critical roles in coalitions such as Real Affordability for AllCaring Across Generations, the Universal Pre-K campaign, and the campaign that successfully halted Walmart’s development in East New York. Silva-Farrell is on the board of Partnership for Working FamiliesNew York Communities Organizing Fund, and Edward J. Malloy Initiative for Construction Skills.

Moderated by Penny Lewis, Professor CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies

New Labor Forum Highlights: October 1st, 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.

CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies faculty Ruth Milkman and Stephanie Luce have released their annual report on the status of unions in New York City, New York State, and the nation. The report shows unionization levels holding fairly steady during the past year, though Milkman and Luce note that the near-term prospects for organized labor seem much more dubious.  As a result of the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision in June 2018, public sector workers are now no longer obliged to pay “fair share” fees to the unions that continue to bargain on their behalf. Though a number of states, including New York, have passed legislation to prevent the hemorrhaging public sector union membership, some degree of decline in the public sector union rolls is all but certain, with disparate results nationally. And the decades-long decline in union membership from its peak of 35.4% in 1945 to 10 % today shows little indication of reversal, despite the fact that a plurality of Americans view unions favorably.

A public forum to be held at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies on October 12th will examine these opposing trends: the weakening of the U.S. labor movement and its broad achievements for all workers, and, at the same time, evidence of an appetite for worker resistance and organizing, as seen in the teacher walkouts in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Arizona earlier this year, and an upsurge in unionization among workers under 35 years old in 2017. Please join us as speakers discuss what this implies about the possibilities and struggles ahead for labor, and which strategic options might enable organized labor to succeed at mass organizing and to join forces with racial and economic justice organizations to become a movement.

Along these lines, we include a think piece titled Invest, Democratize, Organize: Lessons on building more equitable cities from Nashville and Raleigh-Durham, by The Partnership for Working Families, whose Executive Director, Lauren Jacobs, will speak at our forum on October 12th.

Table of Contents

  1. The State of the Unions Report: A Profile of Organized Labor in New York City, New York State and the United States/ Ruth Milkman and Stephanie Luce, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies
  2. Energy From Unlikely Sources: Opportunities for New Organizing/ CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies
  3. Invest, Democratize, Organize: Lessons on building more equitable cities from Nashville and Raleigh-Durham/ The Partnership for Working Families

Taking Back the Wheel: On Labor’s Future

How do we understand the future of labor? Will it be one of total automation and increasingly precarious workers? Perhaps if Uber has anything to say about it. SLU’s Kafui Attoh has co-authored an article with Declan Cullen and Kathryn Wells in Dissent that tackles some of these thorny questions called “Taking Back the Wheel.” Here’s an excerpt:

Uber argues that its biggest boon to “driver partners” is to present them with independence, flexibility, and more-than-competitive compensation. In this argument the on-demand economy ushers in a bright new future and an ostensibly new labor category: the flexible worker. In a twist on Marx’s utopian dream, such a worker can, Frank Pasquale pithily comments, “knit Etsy scarves in the morning, drive Uber cars in the afternoon, and write Facebook comments at night, flexibly shifting between jobs and leisure at will.”

Of course, the neoliberal utopia of a sharing economy operated by highly contingent workers has been shaken by a multitude of analyses telling a markedly different story. These studies, including ours, emphasize precaritysurveillancecontrollow earnings, and insecure conditions. If the Uber model is the future of work, they tell us, that future looks bleak.

Behind all these debates lurks a deeper premise: that the future of work is actually no work at all. 

But according to Attoh and his co-authors, that future isn’t inevitable:

We should resist this logic of inevitability and see platform capitalism for what it is: a means to mobilize a reserve labor army, overcome barriers to accumulation, and fight declining rates of profit. We are not yet on the road to Uberworld. There’s still time for us to wrest back control, not just of the future, but also of the present.

How might we do that? Read the article here for an accounting of the stakes and possibilities — and learn why Uber is less in control of the future than we might be made to think.

Photo by Maurizio Pesce via flickr (CC-BY)