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On Labor Day, New Reason Not to Fall for Trump’s Immigrant Threat Narrative

By Distinguished Professor Ruth Milkman, for Gotham Gazette

Among the many conversations I’ve had about the upcoming election, one stands out in my mind.  It was with an old friend who is riding out the pandemic in upstate New York. She told me about an acquaintance of hers there, a white male construction worker, who is a steadfast Trump supporter. She could not understand why, given that he is struggling economically, he finds the ‘MAGA’ narrative so appealing. “What he is really angry about is all those Mexicans and Guatemalans around here who are taking jobs away from people like him,” she reported.

There’s no danger that New York State will land in the Trump column in November, and lately immigration has faded from the headlines, displaced by the Black Lives Matter protests and Trump’s demonizing of “rioters” and “looters” in the streets. This time around “law and order” is the focus of Trump’s presidential campaign. But we should not lose sight of the immigrant scapegoating that was his North Star in 2016. It remains a potent force for a sizable chunk of Trump’s base, especially white working-class Americans like that construction worker.

Read the full piece HERE.

Photo Credit: Construction workers, New York (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor’s Office)

Profs. Fox Piven and Bhargava on the Presidential Elections in the Intercept

The upcoming presidential elections could present a great test of American institutions. If the sitting US president loses the election and refuses to concede power — well, what happens? And how might he go about trying to pull it off?

SLU professors Frances Fox Piven and Deepak Barghava tackled these questions in a recent article on The Intercept. First, they describe the tactics Trump is already using to undermine the elections:

Trump is questioning the legitimacy of an election that will rely on mail-in ballots, even though he himself has often voted absentee. He has threatened to withhold funding from states that are trying to make it easier for people to vote, and he is undermining the U.S. Postal Service, both of which are essential, especially in a pandemic. His Republican allies around the country have been passing voter ID laws, purging voter rolls, and cutting the number of polling places in urban areas, forcing people to stand in line for hours to exercise their right to vote. 

Meanwhile, there’s plenty of evidence — from foreign interference to white nationalist “poll watchers” — that Trump and the Republican party are “already trying to steal the election.”

But if it doesn’t work, what tools could he trying to deploy? The authors have their suspicions:

To steal the election, we suspect he will adapt the standard playbook of authoritarians everywhere: cast doubt on the election results by filing numerous lawsuits and launching coordinated federal and state investigations, including into foreign interference; call on militia groups to intimidate election officials and instigate violence; rely on fringe social media to generate untraceable rumors, and on Fox News to amplify these messages as fact; and create a climate of confusion and chaos. He might ask the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security — which he has now weaponized against democracy — to deploy to big cities in swing states to stop the vote count or seize ballots. If he does all this right, he’ll be able to put soldiers on the streets, inflame his base, and convince millions of people that the election is being stolen from him. 

From there, could he create a “false justification” for right-wing state legislatures to appoint Trump-loyal electors? If so, the authors have a clear prescription: “take to the streets.” They go on to describe the fecklessness of institutions to beat back Trump on their own, making a strong case for why people power — and movements — will be the necessary ingredient for ensuring the transfer of power.  And, they argue, the work to build that power needs to start immediately.

Read the full chilling — and highly compelling — piece at The Intercept.

Marketplace Features Prof. Milkman On Organizing During a Recession

The conventional wisdom states that recessions are terrible times to organize. During the Great Recession, union membership continued to decline, while public approval of unions reached a low. But, in a recent piece on APM’s Marketplace, Prof. Ruth Milkman explained that there’s an exception to this rule:

But in this recession, we’ve lost three times as many jobs in just the last few months.

“This is on so much grander a scale,” said Milkman. “And that’s more like the ’30s. That’s the only time in the 20th century when the crisis was this deep.”

It was the severity of the Great Depression that helped give rise to the biggest surge in organizing this country has ever seen.

“There are some very important lessons to be learned from what was definitely an uphill battle in the 1930s,” said Lizabeth Cohen, a historian at Harvard University and author of “Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939.”

The union movement was all but dead at the beginning of the Great Depression, said Cohen. Membership was, like today, at historic lows. But the economic pain of the Depression was so deep that it unified Americans in anger, especially the masses of unemployed.

And it was in that moment of anger, hunger and need that the organized labor movement coalesced to become a force of change that transformed the economy. Listen to the full segment here.

Public Domain photo via Wikimedia.

Event: Police Unionism in the Times of #BlackLivesMatter (8/5)

Join us for a special *live* recording of City Works on the pressing issues of police unionism, policing reform, and the Movement for Black Lives. Following the program, panelists will take audience questions.

Host:

Laura Flanders – Host & Executive Producer, The Laura Flanders Show

Guest Speakers:

Evelyn DeJesus – Executive Vice President, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO

Terry Melvin – President, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists

David Unger – Author, “Which Side Are We On: Can Labor Support #BlackLivesMatter & Police Unions?” (New Labor Forum – July 2020); Coordinator, Labor Studies & Labor Relations Programs at CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies

* The Zoom link to the live event will be shared in the registration confirmation email and subsequent reminder emails. *

SLU Student Spotlight: Sima Petilli, LEAP to Teacher

Sima Petilli, a special-needs educator and participant in SLU’s LEAP-to-Teacher program who recently earned her master’s degree at Lehman College, was not going to let anything stand in her way of becoming a certified teacher – not even the sudden, mid-semester transition to working, studying, and full-time parenting from home in response to COVID-19, all while also preparing for the edTPA, a challenging certification exam requiring prospective teachers to submit a portfolio of lesson plans, videos, and written responses.

“It’s very easy to get confused and overwhelmed, but in reality, the edTPA is like a wave. You ride from one wave to another,” Sima said of her experience tackling the different portions of the test.

Originally from Russia, Sima first came to the U.S. when she was 13 years old and then moved to Israel to complete her undergraduate studies. She returned to the States afterward to pursue a career in public relations as a Conference Director. But when the company went bankrupt, she realized she wanted a completely different lifestyle. For the past three years, Sima has worked as a special needs preschool teacher in Manhattan, and loves it.

“You never know what could happen during a lesson!” she exclaimed gleefully. “This was a big shift in my career and I’m very happy with my decision.” Read more about Sima.

In Two Seconds: Tamir Rice 2002-2014

by Mark Doty

the boy’s face
climbed back down the twelve-year tunnel

of its becoming,  a charcoal sunflower
swallowing itself. Who has eyes to see,

or ears to hear? If you could see
what happens fastest, unmaking

the human irreplaceable, a star
falling into complete gravitational

darkness from all points of itself, all this:

the held loved body into which entered
milk and music,  honeying the cells of him:

who sang to him, stroked the nap
of the scalp, kissed the flesh-knot

after the cord completed its work
of fueling into him the long history

of those whose suffering
was made more bearable

by the as-yet-unknown of him,

playing alone in some unthinkable
future city, a Cleveland,

whatever that might be.
Two seconds. To elapse:

the arc of joy in the conception bed,
the labor of hands repeated until

the hands no longer required attention,
so that as the woman folded

her hopes for him sank into the fabric
of his shirts and underpants. Down

they go, swirling down into the maw
of a greater dark. Treasure box,

comic books, pocket knife, bell from a lost cat’s collar,
why even begin to enumerate them

when behind every tributary
poured into him comes rushing backward

all he hasn’t been yet. Everything
that boy could have thought or made,

sung or theorized, built on the quavering
but continuous structure

that had preceded him sank into
an absence in the shape of a boy

playing with a plastic gun in a city park
in Ohio, in the middle of the afternoon.

When I say two seconds, I don’t mean the time
it took him to die. I mean the lapse between

the instant the cruiser braked to a halt
on the grass, between that moment

and the one in which the officer fired his weapon.
The two seconds taken to assess the situation.

I believe it is part of the work
of poetry to try on at least
the moment and skin of another,

for this hour I respectfully decline.

I refuse it. May that officer
be visited every night of his life
by an enormity collapsing in front of him

into an incomprehensible bloom,
and the voice that howls out of it.

If this is no poem then…

But that voice –- erased boy,
beloved of time, who did nothing
to no one and became

nothing because of it –- I know that voice
is one of the things we call poetry.
It isn’t only to his killer he’s speaking.


In Two Seconds: Tamir Rice, 2002-2014″ previously appeared in vol. 44, no. 3 of American Poetry Review. Copyright © 2015 by Mark Doty. Used with permission of the author.


Author Biography

Mark Doty is the author of several collections of poetry, including Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems, which received the 2008 National Book Award. He served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2011 to 2016.

Photo by Miki Jourdan via flickr (cc-by-nc-nd)

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