On Equity in Our Workforce

By Rebecca Lurie

As I read the latest paper by Steve Dawson on workforce, once again I am grateful for the principles and practices he describes so well. (And succinctly! So if you have time to read a one-pager, do it! And don’t bother to read my post!)

Dawson’s paper, “Class Dismissed Defining Equity in our Workforce Field” suggests we look deeper into meaningful work and consider, when we train and prepare for jobs, that we also train and prepare for the broader world of work. Exposing trainees to organizing, policy, advocacy and cooperative business skills all as means to improve lives even when job placement options are not great.

The full series can be found here. I highly recommend it for those aiming to do more than good work through workforce development, but for those who want to use the opportunity when engaged in workforce training to help raise the bar, and advocate for better jobs and better work in a world that demands us to make ready ourselves, our young, our disenfranchised, for work that will improve conditions through a wide range of strategies and approaches.

New Labor Forum Highlights: Dec. 19th, 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.

In this holiday season, if you’ve resisted online shopping through Amazon, you’re in the diminishing minority. More than half of all online retail searches presently begin with Amazon, and the company now takes in fully half of all web-based consumer purchases made in the United States. It therefore behooves us to reckon with the behemoth’s gravitational pull on our economy, and indeed on the global economy. An impressive report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), included in this newsletter, goes a long way toward measuring Amazon’s impact on local economies in the form of shuttered businesses, net job losses, low wages for its warehouse workers, and many millions of dollars of lost tax revenue owing to Amazon’s successful tax avoidance schemes.

As evidenced in the following news articles, Amazon’s global workforce is increasingly refusing to take it on the chin. Its workers in Europe and the U.S. are engaging in traditional labor organizing, as well as organizing intended to protest the company’s business model and its inroads into dubious ventures, as in the development of facial recognition technology for law enforcement. In 2019, New Labor Forum will be publishing a number of articles that examine the ways in which Amazon and other Silicon Valley giants have altered the functioning of capitalism in the twenty-first century, thereby presenting new challenges and opportunities for worker and political organizing. So, if you haven’t already subscribed, please do so now and see below for a special holiday gift.

Table of Contents: 
  1. Amazon’s Stranglehold: How the Company’s Tightening Grip Is Stifling Competition, Eroding Jobs, and Threatening Communities/ Olivia LaVecchia and Stacy Mitchell, Institute For Local Self-Reliance
  2. Hundreds March on Amazon Fulfillment Center in Minnesota/ Bryan Menegus, Portside Labor 
  3. German union calls strike at Amazon warehouse/ Emma Thomasson, Reuters  

Photo by thisisbossi via flickr (CC-BY-SA)

Spring 2019 MA Scholarship Application Now Open (Deadline: 12/18)

The Murphy Institute is offering a small number of tuition-only scholarships for Spring 2019 to both newly-admitted and continuing MA students in Urban Studies and Labor Studies. Students must re-apply each semester to be considered for a scholarship for the next term. (Scholarships and amounts may vary from semester to semester depending on the availability of funds and/or enrollment status.)

Applications are open until 11:59pm on July 12th, 2018. Learn more and apply here.

Video: The Next Generation: Young Workers Building Movements

On December 6th, members of SLU community gathered to discuss the challenges and opportunities faced by young adults in building the labor movement.

Despite the recent weakness of the U.S. labor movement, young workers are invigorating unions and other working-class organizations throughout the country, showing the promise of a new broad-based progressive movement. Social media-driven movements like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, along with the emergence of left political organizations and young candidates for local and national office, have also played an important role in sparking new organizing among younger workers. At the same time, student debt is skyrocketing, permanent full-time jobs are harder to find, unemployment and underemployment are prevalent among low-income young people and communities of color, and increases in housing/living costs far surpass increases in real wages for many young workers.

How are young adults building the labor movement in the face of worsening conditions? How are young workers in other movements influencing the political landscape? Are there fundamental differences in young workers’ outlook or analysis compared to previous generations? What are the primary challenges and obstacles they face given the changing economy and its more precarious job opportunities? What are the most exciting opportunities and partnerships that are being developed by young workers?

The conversation featured Arsenia Reilly-Collins, Jedidiah Labinjo, and Kim Kelly, and was moderated by Diana Robinson.

Check out the video above or here.

New Labor Forum Highlights: December 3rd, 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 the New Labor Forum newsletter, we take a break from our bi-weekly offering of free articles, reports, videos, and poems. This holiday season, we ask you to support the journal by taking out a gift subscription now for a friend and subscribe or re-up yourself for 2019!  This month, subscribers will also receive a free back issue of New Labor Forum from 2018.

The journal has a long and proud history of publishing the work of cutting-edge labor activists, first-rate scholars, and journalists who debate and discuss the full range of issues confronting workers and working-class communities. Highlights from the January 2019 issue provide manifest proof of that:

Subscribe to New Labor Forum

Shoshana Zuboff’s Surveillance Capitalism and the Challenge of Collective Actionwill present an extended essay summation of her forthcoming book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power.  Zuboff theorizes how surveillance capitalism opens up a whole new era in capital accumulation.  Relying on a process of primitive accumulation, which has always been characteristic of capitalism, it extends capital’s reach beyond nature and human labor into the interior, intimate life of human beings, by tracking, manipulating, and trading in human behavior.  She calls the new system the “Big Other” and ponders what new forms of collective resistance might emerge to challenge the dominion of surveillance capitalism.

In Renewing Working-Class Internationalism, Aziz Rana will reckon with the fact that, for some time now, the new left as a whole, pre-occupied with domestic political issues, has failed to offer an alternative vision of a left foreign policy.  His article will suggest what a left foreign policy should entail, urging progressives to break through the artificial division between domestic and foreign affairs, arguing − as did social democrats of yesteryear − that the dominion of capital at home depends on its political and economic over-lordship throughout the rest of the world.

Ted Fertik will offer provocative answers to the question What Did the Midterms Tell Us About the Future of the Electoral Left?  Presenting an anatomy of the left’s electoral coalition,  he’ll take a stab at assessing the prospects for “multiracial left populism.”

And in Sex Work Is Work, Riley Renegade, a sex worker and organizer, will pan the trepidation of feminists and labor organizers to accept this form of labor that far predates capitalism.  She describes both the harmfully exploitative and the rewarding nature of work in her segment of this multi-billion dollar industry.

SLU Prof. Kafui Attoh on WNYC’s On the Media

Last week, SLU Urban Studies Professor Kafui Attoh made an appearance on WNYC’s On the Media to talk about the relationship between public transportation and democracy, closing out an hour that explores the injustices that undergird “feel good” stories about workers persevering through horrifying commutes and the perils of self-driving cars. From On the Media:

The lion’s share of our transit-oriented program this week has centered on the personal car and its infrastructure. This is no accident. The car speeds, stalls, thrills and kills us — all because we need a ride. But what if we’d really rather journey by bus? 

Brooke spoke with Kafui Attoh, professor of urban studies at the CUNY Graduate Center, about the deep political connotations of “transit rights.” Such rights, Attoh argues in his forthcoming book Rights in Transit, have roots in Marx, Engels and Lefebvre’s thinking on the radical nature of cities

Listen to the whole hour here or check out Prof. Attoh’s segment here.

Photo by Sergio SC via flickr (CC-BY-SA)

A conversation about workers, communities and social justice

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