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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

Frances Fox Piven Profiled In the NYTimes

SLU professor Frances Fox Piven has been no stranger to press in her 86 years — many of which have been spent as a rabble-rousing leftist activist and respected leftist intellectual. Last week, Prof. Piven got yet one more feature to add to the list: a NYTimes profile by Alex Traub that describes her role in an evolving left, and the leadership she’s providing to a new generation of activists:

“She’s someone whose body of work shows that you don’t have to drift off into this La-La Land of intellectualism,” [Jacobin editor Micah] Uetricht said. “People should be going on strike. People should be withdrawing their labor power or causing chaos in society. That’s where their power comes from.”

Probably the most influential vector for Ms. Piven’s ideas is the social-justice incubator Momentum, a training program for progressives that formed in 2014.

Trainees include members of the Sunrise Movement, whose occupation of Ms. Pelosi’s office with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sparked conversation about the Green New Deal. It was just the sort of disruption Ms. Piven advocates.

“What tactics we use is exactly the question that Piven is addressing,” said Lissy Romanow, 35, Momentum’s executive director. Part of Ms. Piven’s appeal, she said, came from her view that social movements are required for big left-wing victories — a perspective suited to a generation disillusioned with liberal business as usual.

The Times article focuses on Dr. Piven’s reverential status among labor organizers and activists, and how she has influenced the current progressive movement — which it says is “full of Pivenites.” In July, she will be headlining the Socialism2019 Conference “No Borders, No Bosses, No Binaries”, to be held in Chicago.

 Check out the rest of the article here.

Video: The Making of a Foreign Policy

As the 2020 presidential election approaches, what do progressives hope to see from candidates when it comes to foreign policy? On Friday, May 10th, members of the SLU community and beyond gathered to explore the tricky of how to develop a foreign policy that makes sense for the current world and keeps true to progressive values.

The conversation brought together Katrina vanden Heuvel, Publisher of The Nation, and Aziz Rana, Professor of Law at Cornell University, with the New Labor Forum’s Steve Fraser moderating.

Progressive activists and political leaders in the U.S. have been slow to elaborate a vision regarding foreign policy. Although anti-interventionism and support for decreases in military spending are widely shared stances on the left, they do not comprise a comprehensive foreign policy platform.

What accounts for the lack of attention toward developing a progressive foreign policy platform? What principles and policies would make up such a platform? What would a non-imperial vision of the U.S. in the world look like? What current alliances would such a platform call into question? What are the current possibilities and the substantial obstacles to advancing a contemporary progressive vision for foreign policy? What can we expect from the growing progressive wing of Congressional Democrats?

A conversation about workers, communities and social justice

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