Raising Cain (and Baby) with Jimmy Bosco

Jimmy Bosco is from the working class and he is damn proud of it.

“I always want to be a member of the working class,” he said. “That’s who I am.

I’m rank and file, and I like working and being with the rank and file. I don’t feel like I necessarily need to be a leader of a union or something like that. I can do that right on the floor. I like that I can bring my anarchist/libertarian/socialist views to work and share them with my fellow workers. I can tell them that the problem in our country isn’t Democratic or Republican politics—it’s our capitalist society. I give them reading suggestions and websites. During the pandemic, I read about Cuomo’s policies on nursing homes and told my co-workers that there would be trouble, and when it all came down the pike a year later, they were impressed.”

“I’m working in a restaurant right now, and I’ve been doing some agitating there. I’m not afraid of talking to workers in front of the owner. One hostess worked 40 hours one week and 36 the next but she didn’t get overtime for the 6 hours over 70.  The owner told her she had to work more than 80 hours to get overtime. That’s illegal in New York State. I told her to use the group chat to ask if anyone else was having issues with overtime. They all started chatting together about asking for overtime, getting promoted to waitress. They all wanted to help each other get what is their due. So I got them to ask for a raise collectively. When the restaurant reopened for dine-in, I told them that was the most leverage they would ever have. So they all signed a letter and went right up to the owner and gave it to him. And they got a dollar per hour raise.”

So why did he decide to go back to school, and why SLU? “I didn’t really have a goal in mind, it’s more therapeutic for me. I was really engaged in politics as a teenager but as I got older a state of hopelessness took hold about my situation in life. I fell into addiction. I’m in recovery a long time now but when the pandemic hit, my anger at how badly we are getting screwed started to bubble up again. I wanted to know more about socialist theory.  So, I started researching schools online and decided to read some of the pieces written by professors. I came across one of Ruth Milkman’s publications, and I loved the radical (to me) nature of it. And when I saw that she taught at SLU, I realized that it was the old Murphy Institute that my dad had spoken about when he worked for the MTA. So here I am, in my second semester of the MALS program. I found a whole new world at SLU that satiated my anger and helped me put it to work.”

Jimmy particularly appreciates SLU’s faculty and teaching methodology. “Marianne [Garneau] and Stephanie [Luce] have been very influential. And a lot of the professors use a teaching model that I like. Most classes I had experienced use what Freire would call the banking model, where there is an authoritative figure that banks the information into your head. Learning, for me, is not passive, and at SLU they use the popular education model with a facilitator that presents a problem and asks students to consider how to solve it. You’re not just being lectured at—both parties are learning from each other. Going down my own path of inquiry is what helps me learn. At SLU I’m encouraged to do that and supported.”

He added, “There really is a lot of support at SLU. I see it as an organizing school, and there are so many opportunities to network and meet people in the labor movement. I was introduced to the president of the CLC. I’ve actually gotten job interviews because there was an SLU alum working at the union I applied to work for.” Jimmy laughed. “When I was studying English at Queens College no one ever gave me career suggestions.”

So what does he plan to do with the knowledge he’s gaining at SLU?  “I want to work with felons, addicts, immigrants with illegal status. That’s where I belong. I want to work with them and write about them. I know a lot about despair and addiction. I know a lot about working hard, missing holidays. I want to write from the perspective of the 99%, the people who don’t have a voice. I want to tell their stories. And I want to write fiction, too, labor fiction. I got turned on to this idea in one of my classes at SLU. It would be so easy, you just write from your own experience. It would practically write itself.”

Jimmy says he’s pitched an article about organizing at his old union to Jonah Furman at LaborNotes. But for right now, he’s busy with his studies and caring for his newborn son, Benjamin. “I always said I wanted to raise the next labor revolutionary. Benjamin was born on November 5th—Guy Fawkes Day—so I guess he has a headstart as an anarchist.”

Jimmy grinned. “It runs in the family.”

Read Jimmy’s recent article “I Live for That Shit: A Worker Recalls Successful Direct Action in the Workplace,” in Organizing Work. (Written under the pen name James Nestlé)