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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.