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New Labor Forum Highlights: November 20th, 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.

With this installment of New Labor Forum Highlights, we offer two important articles from the current issue of the journal, as well as two poems you won’t want to miss.

We’ve all heard Donald Trump denounce the “deep state”, yet seen him people his administration with generals, CIA mandarins, and hedge fund operators. An article here by Jacob Silverman probes the origins of the “deep state” in the National Security Act of 1947, chronicles its imperial mission abroad, and maps the division of labor between its foreign and domestic policy apparatchiks. Silverman’s tracking of these mainly unelected centers of power should put to rest the tendency to see in these deep state institutions, long thebete noire of the left, a guarantor of civil liberties.

And first among countries able to count on the support of the “deep state” is, of course, Israel, despite that nation’s sustained human rights violations against the people who once inhabited the land it controls. An article by Andrew Ross tallies the immense labor contribution of Palestinians, particularly through their ongoing construction work to erect and expand the superstructure of Israel. Given not only the role of Palestinian labor in building the Israeli state, but also the fact that it’s been a compulsory and hyper-exploited labor force, Ross finds a strong case for labor-based reparations to Palestinians. Ross proposes that Palestinian labor contributions ought to provide a rationale for full citizenship rights, and perhaps other claims as well, should a multi-cultural integrated Israeli state ultimately emerge.

And we conclude with the work of Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish (1942-2008), and of American Jewish poet, Elana Bell. Darwish’s Identity Card became a protest anthem in the 1960s, triggering the Israeli government to place him under house arrest.  And Elana Bell, granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, comes to grips with a land that is both a Zionist dream and an occupied state. Her poem, “There are things this poem would rather not say” bears witness to the labor debt Israelis owe the Palestinian people.  Continue reading New Labor Forum Highlights: November 20th, 2018

Call for Participation: Our Economy! Economic Democracy and System Change (4/12)

DEADLINE EXTENDED TO DECEMBER 15TH, 2018 

Can the economy be democratized? How can we transform it into a more socially inclusive and ecologically sustainable system?  How can we combat the growing concentrations of power and wealth? What current practices point toward a participatory democratic and resilient next system?

Our Economy! Economic Democracy and System Change is a conference designed to stimulate and explore these questions, to be held April 12th, 2019 in midtown, Manhattan.

There is growing interest in forms of ownership that are meaningfully different from the traditional capitalist forms (whether privately owned or publicly traded), build equity for individuals and communities, and utilize forms of decision-making that are more empowering than representational democracy.  This includes, among other forms, cooperatives (worker-, consumer-, producer-), co-determination, community land trusts, mutual housing associations, credit unions, participatory budgeting, intentional communities, and calls for basic income or a federal jobs guarantee. Many of these forms of economic democracy have been around for a long time but have never had that much impact within the larger frameworks of a liberal capitalist political economy.  Are they up to the task of the present moment? How can they be updated and interconnected to take on the intensifying political, economic, technological, and ecological problems that define our chaotic unequal present?

The School of Labor and Urban Studies (SLU) at the City University of New York is convening a conference for academics, activists, organizers, practitioners, advocates, policy researchers, and policy makers to discuss and analyze the current state of the theories and practices of economic democracy. Continue reading Call for Participation: Our Economy! Economic Democracy and System Change (4/12)

New Labor Forum Highlights: October 22nd, 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.

As progressive organizing surges within and around the Democratic Party, activists looking toward “the left wing of the possible” increasingly turn their gaze across the Atlantic to The Remarkable Rise of Jeremy Corbyn. In the current issue of New Labor Forum, Hilary Wainwright suggests that it is Corbyn’s bold challenge to neo-liberal policies that has won him the support of the youth and a rank-and-file battered by rising student debt, skyrocketing housing costs, increasing precarity, and declining public services.

Reclaiming the value and efficacy of public ownership and economic democracy is among the most audacious aspects of the new Labour Party “Manifesto.” Addressing the Labour Party annual conference in Liverpool in early September, Shadow Chancellor John McDonald announced “We are extending economic democracy even further by bringing water, energy, Royal Mail and rail into public ownership.”

Labour’s plan for public ownership of energy also undergirds it commitment to reach zero emissions by 2050. New Labor Forum columnist and the Trade Unions for Energy Democracy global coordinator Sean Sweeney, under the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, is currently working with UK unions in helping with the development of this plan, recently elaborated at the Labour Party Conference by Rebecca Long Bailey, Labour Party Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.  She told the conference, “This is not the time for piecemeal measures. We do not have to settle for whatever the market can deliver, and sleep walk into catastrophe. We need a plan of action.” Long Bailey recently addressed a TUED conference in Sheffield where unions debated how the energy system should be taken back into public ownership.

Table of Contents: 

1. The Remarkable Rise of Jeremy Corbyn/ Hilary Wainwright, New Labor Forum
2. Labour wants green energy to power most UK homes by 2030/ Adam Vaughan, The Guardian
3. Rebecca Long Bailey speaking at Labour Party Conference today/ UK Labour Party 

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.

Welcome Letter from SLU Dean Greg Mantsios

Dear Friends of the Murphy Institute and the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies;

On this Labor Day weekend, I want to welcome everyone to the new CUNY School for Labor and Urban Studies (SLU).  As you may know, the School traces its roots to the Murphy Institute which was re-constituted as a CUNY School last year. This week, we proudly opened our doors to students under our new name. The Murphy Institute continues as an important unit of the School—one that is focused on public engagement and workforce development.

SLU is the only interdisciplinary program in Labor and Urban Studies in the nation.  With this letter, we are launching the SLU website (slu.cuny.edu). We invite you to explore it for details about SLU’s undergraduate and graduate programs as well as its range of student and community services.

SLU is driven by a set of core values: access to education, diversity at every level, social justice, and equality for all. Our goals are to expand higher education opportunities for workers; prepare students for careers in public service and movements for social justice; promote civic engagement; provide leadership development for union and community activists; and help workers achieve greater economic security.

Labor Day is a perfect time to acknowledge those who have worked so hard to make SLU a reality. First, I want to thank the City University of New York and its Chancellery for having the vision and the political will to create this new School. The idea for SLU was shaped by many individuals and organizations. Our Advisory Board —chaired by Arthur Cheliotes (Manager of CWA 1180) and consisting of 23 unions and community organization—led this effort over a six-year period. They were committed to creating a School for workers and working-class communities and put enormous effort into raising funds to inaugurate and sustain the School. As a result, we have been honored by the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie as well as leading members of the State legislature and the New York City Council (especially Senator Diane Savino and Council Members Daneek Miller and Inez Baron).

Our faculty of distinguished scholars and practitioners has crafted a rich curriculum that examines the world of work and workers from the perspective of urban communities, especially those that have been underserved by government and public institutions.  We also have   a dedicated staff of program administrators and student services experts who spare no effort to help our students succeed in college.  Finally, SLU is nothing without its decades-long history in worker education and without the remarkable students who have established our reputation as a School for change agents. We are proud to thank the many union organizers and administrators, municipal employees, elected officials, researchers, and community advocates who were and are our students.

In our first year of operation, we will focus on building out the School, hiring additional faculty and staff; expanding current programs; and launching new initiatives. We will establish an academic governance structure for the School—one that is faculty-led and includes student and staff representatives. We will serve new constituencies, with higher education opportunities for resident leaders in housing projects and mentors who counsel youth offenders. Our year-long series of public programs rolls out with a September panel on Democracy and Capitalism (featuring NYC Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson); an October panel on New Labor and Community Organizing (with Larry Cohen, former International President of the CWA and now  Board Chair of Our Revolution); and a November Reporters Roundtable analysis of the 2018 midterm elections. Throughout the year, we will be offering our popular Saturday series on civic leadership, a program that prepares activists to run for public office or work on electoral campaigns.

We have an exciting year ahead. No doubt, we will have our challenges.  But with your continuing support, SLU will meet them and rise to greater heights. I want to thank you for being a part of the SLU community, and I look forward to sharing this banner year with you.

Sincerely,

 

Gregory Mantsios, Ph.D

Founding Dean, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies