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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

Union Semester Student Bailey Miller Wins Labor Journalism Contest

Each year, the Metro New York Labor Journalism Council gives out awards for student labor journalism. And this year, the winner for written article was SLU student Bailey Miller, who wrote about “body shops,” labor-leasing companies that exploit formerly incarcerated workers, and which are proliferating on construction sites throughout New York City. Her article is reproduced below. Congratulations, Bailey!

The Rise of Labor-Leasing Companies and the Exploitation of Formerly Incarcerated Workers in New York City

By Bailey Miller

Construction in New York City is booming, but beneath the glitter and shine of new buildings, a troubling trend has emerged. An expanding class of labor-leasing companies, known as “body shops”, is providing general contractors with workforces of formerly incarcerated people for exploitive construction sites across the five boroughs. Body shops pay barely minimum wage, offer no benefits like medical coverage, and provide minimal safety training for workers to erect scaffolds, clear debris, and perform other types of work on the cheap. The rise of body shops means that formerly incarcerated workers, who are disproportionately Black, are increasingly exploited to perform the dangerous work of erecting New York City’s luxury towers and shopping complexes.   Continue reading Union Semester Student Bailey Miller Wins Labor Journalism Contest

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?

New Labor Forum Highlights: May 13th, 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.

This installment of New Labor Forum Highlights brings a sneak peek at the May 2019 issue just before it rolls off press. In the cover article, linked here, Nick Serpe assess whether millennials, indeed, constitute a political category. Not since the 1960s has a cohort of young people felt so drawn to a radical critique of American society. Back then it was a college age population growing up in a period of post-war prosperity. Today, it’s a somewhat older cohort in their mid-twenties to thirties, coming of age in far more austere circumstances. In both cases, however, a sizeable fraction of American youth did and are now again concluding that something is profoundly wrong in the “homeland.” Demographics don’t lie. But what we make of them is not so straight-forward. Generational analysis is a tricky business that Serpe explores to unravel the enigma.

Also linked here, you’ll find a poem from the May issue by Javier Zamora, who left El Salvador as an “unaccompanied minor,” wholly dependent on the aid of an MS13 member to cross the U.S./Mexico border. Zamora survived the dangerous passage and the tenuous existence of an undocumented child in the U.S., and has gone on to become an award-winning poet.

We hope you’ll decide to support New Labor Forum by subscribing to the print and/or online journal, and thereby gain full access to articles, columns, reviews, and poetry essential grappling with the contemporary “labor question” writ large.

Table of Contents
  1. Beyond Generational Politics: Do Millennials Constitute a Political Category?/ Nick Serpe, New Labor Forum
  2. “Second Attempt Crossing”/ Javier Zamora, New Labor Forum

Photo by Fibonacci Blue via flickr (cc-by)

2019 Murphy Diversity in Labor Scholarship Gala (5/23)

Photo features Diversity Scholarship recipients from 2017 plus staff.

In 2012 the Murphy Institute launched a scholarship program designed to promote diversity in union leadership and labor education.  The Joseph S. Murphy Diversity in Labor Scholarship program awards two-year scholarships of up to $30,000 for graduate students and up to $20,000 for undergraduate students. The scholarship is available to students applying to the M.A. in Labor Studies program, or the B.A. in Urban and Community Studies program with a concentration in labor studies.

This year, for the first time, the Diversity Scholarship is being celebrated as a signature program of the new CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies. The 2019 fundraiser and awards gala will take place on Thursday, May 23rd from 5:30-7:30 PM at the School.  Bhairavi Desai, Executive Director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, will be the guest speaker.  The event will also feature the announcement of the 2019 Rising Leaders and the recipients of the 2019-20 scholarship awards.

Your support for the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies is greatly appreciated.