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New Labor Forum Highlights: June 10th, 2019

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.

In the current issue of New Labor Forum , columnist Sarah Jaffe covers a very bright spot in the contemporary labor movement: the impressive union organizing taking place at digital media outlets around the country. Beginning in 2010 with Truthout, the first digital newsroom to organize, then since 2015, a wave of unionization has taken place at outlets that include: Gawker, The Onion, The Dodo, Gizmodo Media Group, HuffPost, Mic.com, Thrillist, Mic, Jacobin, Fast Company, The Onion, BuzzFeed, Vox Media, Slate, Salon, the Intercept, MTV News, and the fashion site Refinery29.

Campaigns with the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) and NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America (CWA) have been led largely by millenials and, as Steven Greenhouse reports in an article in NiemanLab included here, have focused on raising abysmal starting wages, improving benefits packages, and protecting workers from the precarity that characterizes the industry. And according to TeenVogue columnist Kim Kelly − who figures in Jaffe’s and Greenhouse’s reporting and spoke at a CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies forum – collective bargaining at these media outlets has also begun to make strides toward improving workplace culture and bringing about “the world we think we want.” New digital media union members continue to experiment with their own feisty and innovative organizing to secure labor contracts. For instance, just last Thursday at Vox Media, approximately 300 workers stayed out of work to pressure the company to settle a contract that’s been in negotiation since April of last year. The dearth of fresh content to post left the company high and dry for the day and seems likely to spur a settlement.

Table of Contents
  1. The Labor Movement Comes to Virtual Reality: Unionizing Digital Media/ Sarah Jaffe,New Labor Forum
  2. Why are digital newsrooms unionizing now?/ Steven Greenhouse, Nieman Lab
  3. The Next Generation: Young Workers Building Movements/ The Murphy Institute, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies

Photo by lizsmith via flickr (cc-by-nc-nd)

Spotlight on Students: William Barron of Queens College

Spotlight on Students is a series in which we showcase the different pathways that students are taking through SLU. This is the first post in the series, featuring William Barron, a student in our Worker Education program at Queens College.

By Becky Firesheets

William Barron exudes passion, even over the phone. During our recent interview, Barron, a public school paraprofessional earning his bachelor’s degree at Queens College, would regularly become so enthusiastic that his sentences blurred together in one fast outburst of emotion. Yet his answers never felt off-topic or unfocused. On the contrary, his magnetic personality and fierce determination left me inspired and wanting to talk further, to see what life lessons I might be able to glean.

Barron’s CUNY story began at Kingsborough Community College where he earned an associate degree before planning to take a break from school in order to work. He decided last-minute to stop by a college fair and serendipitously met Francine Sanchez of The Murphy Institute for Worker Education at Queens College. Her advice was so compelling that he decided to keep going with his education. Continue reading Spotlight on Students: William Barron of Queens College

New Labor Forum Highlights: May 28th, 2019

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.

In the spring 2019 issue of New Labor Forum, just off press, Gabrielle E. Clark examines the push/pull factors that led to the dramatic rise of Mexican migration to the U.S. between 1970 and 2000. She argues that – despite the marked decline of that migration during the past two decades and the fact that there has never been a mass migration of Central Americans to the U.S. – detention and deportation along the southwest border have since become a big business. And just how big a business restrictionism has now become is simply jaw dropping. According to a report by the Migration Policy Institute released earlier this month and included here, “in fiscal year (FY) 2018, Congress allocated $24 billion to fund the principal immigration enforcement agencies . . .[or] 34 percent more than the $17.9 billion allocated for all other principal federal criminal law enforcement agencies combined.” Included here, too, are articles from The Nation and The Intercept that capture the cruelty and immense human toll of the expanding immigration industrial complex.

Table of Contents
  1. The Business of Mass Migration: Fear, Exploitation, and the Political Economy of Immigration Restriction/ Gabrielle E. Clark, New Labor Forum
  2. Eight Key U.S. Immigration Policy Issues: State of Play and Unanswered Questions/ Doris Meissner and Julia Gelatt, Migration Policy Institute
  3. How Private Contractors Enable Trump’s Cruelties at the Border/ David Dayen, The Nation
  4. Solitary Voices: Thousands of Immigrants Suffer in Solitary Confinement in ICE Detention/ The Intercept and The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

Photo by Fibonacci Blue via flickr (cc-by)

Economic Democracy on Laura Flanders Show

Last month, SLU hosted Our Economy!, a conference where leaders in community, labor and the economic democracy movement gathered to vision for an economy that can work for everyone. The most recent episode of the Laura Flanders Show covers some of the conversations that took place at the conference, and which have been happening in SLU’s Community and Worker Ownership Project and beyond. Check it out here:

via Laura Flanders Show:

Our city’s economy – what is it for? New York’s has been very good at piling up profits and building tall buildings. But all that private profit has come at a cost to public services and public trust. Could it be different? On this week’s show, we talk about the new conversations that are happening between labor unions and community members. Between residents, workers, and employers about how everyone’s economy can move forward. 

Updates from the Community and Worker Ownership Project

April was a very exciting month for the Community and Worker Ownership Project at SLU. We hosted the new school’s first faculty conference; “Our Economy! Economic Democracy and System Change,” giving us the opportunity to gather several hundred people to have shared conversations about what would it take to take to scale practice for economic democracy. What policies should we be promoting? What should we be teaching? How are we doing it?

Later in the month, CWOP coordinator Rebecca Lurie visited Wellspring Cooperatives, a cooperative development organization in Springfield, Massachusetts that works closely with organized labor and U. Mass at Amherst. While there, Rebecca spoke at the Pioneer Valley Central Labor Council and the Western Mass Affiliate Labor Federation as part of their Annual Training Conference and Workers Memorial Day Ceremony. She talked about unions and coops and where they overlap with vision and mission for worker dignity, offering expanded approaches with the notion of worker and community ownership and control. Continue reading Updates from the Community and Worker Ownership Project

Union Semester Student Bailey Miller Wins Labor Journalism Contest

Each year, the Metro New York Labor Journalism Council gives out awards for student labor journalism. And this year, the winner for written article was SLU student Bailey Miller, who wrote about “body shops,” labor-leasing companies that exploit formerly incarcerated workers, and which are proliferating on construction sites throughout New York City. Her article is reproduced below. Congratulations, Bailey!

The Rise of Labor-Leasing Companies and the Exploitation of Formerly Incarcerated Workers in New York City

By Bailey Miller

Construction in New York City is booming, but beneath the glitter and shine of new buildings, a troubling trend has emerged. An expanding class of labor-leasing companies, known as “body shops”, is providing general contractors with workforces of formerly incarcerated people for exploitive construction sites across the five boroughs. Body shops pay barely minimum wage, offer no benefits like medical coverage, and provide minimal safety training for workers to erect scaffolds, clear debris, and perform other types of work on the cheap. The rise of body shops means that formerly incarcerated workers, who are disproportionately Black, are increasingly exploited to perform the dangerous work of erecting New York City’s luxury towers and shopping complexes.   Continue reading Union Semester Student Bailey Miller Wins Labor Journalism Contest

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