Category Archives: Labor Studies

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Precarious Solidarity – Labor and The Environmental Movement

This post was written by Penny Lewis, an Assistant Professor of Labor Studies at The Murphy Institute

For the second time in two weeks the New York Times has devoted its lead news story to reports about our unfolding environmental cataclysm.  Last week’s lead brought home the fact that climate change is happening now, covering reports that track contemporary shifts in temperature and rainfall across the United States.  Yesterday’s story, far removed from our borders, is even more disturbing: the western ice sheet of Antarctica is fatally compromised, and the oceans will rise at least 4 feet this century from this alone. Quite possibly they will rise much more, and most certainly much more – 10-12 feet – in the following period.

If you’re like me, you read these stories with a churning set of feelings: powerlessness, frustration that approaches rage, a sense of profound loss. And you might also find yourself revisiting the same question: how can we engage this central problem of our time?

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Catherwood Library Takes on the Books that Shaped Work in America

The following post was co-authored by Aliqae Geraci, a Murphy Institute Labor Studies Masters Alum and now a research librarian at the Martin P. Catherwood Library, part of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University; and Jessica Withers, a library communications and development assistant. The articled was originally posted on the U.S. Department of Labor Blog. 

As staff of Catherwood Library, one of the few dedicated labor relations libraries in U.S., we are always looking out for innovative ways to join and facilitate conversations about work and labor. As avid readers of the Labor Department’s blog and newsletter, we were thrilled to learn about the list of Books that Shaped Work in America − an initiative of the department and the Library of Congress Center for the Book − and knew immediately that we wanted to be part of the project. It was a moment for us to reiterate our commitment to collecting and preserving the literature and research of labor and the workplace. Our main reading room display was the perfect setting to showcase many books on the list during the spring 2014 semester. Jessica Withers designed the display, creating placards echoing the design of the Books that Shaped Work in America initiative and pulling content from our collection of over 200,000 items. Catherwood owns about half the 100 titles originally selected for the list, and many more are scattered across the numerous libraries at Cornell University. We were able to show the depth and breadth of Catherwood holdings, including a 1974 first edition of Studs Terkel’s “Working” and the graphic adaptation illustrated by Harvey Pekar.

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Southern Labor Studies Association is accepting essay submissions for the Robert H. Zieger Prize

The Southern Labor Studies Association (SLSA) announces the Robert H. Zieger Prize for the best essay in Southern Labor Studies. This prize has been established with the cooperation of the Zieger family and members of the SLSA. The SLSA encourages the study and teaching of southern working-class history, and builds connections between labor activists and academics to encourage a greater understanding of the diverse experiences and cultures of workers in the South, broadly defined.

This prize will be awarded every two years to the best article in southern labor studies submitted by a graduate student or early career scholar, journalist, or activist (“early career” being defined as no more than five years beyond the author’s highest degree).

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The Significance of the TWU and UFT Labor Contracts

Written by James Parrott, the Chief Economist at the Fiscal Policy Institute

For the first time in nearly five years, major labor agreements were recently reached covering public sector workers in New York City. On April 17, Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 concluded a new 5-year contract dating from January 2012 covering 34,000 workers at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), most of whom work for the subway and bus system in New York City. Two weeks later on May 1, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) reached a 9-year agreement with the City of New York stretching back to November 2009 that affects over 100,000 public school teachers and support staff.

Both contracts represented a breakthrough in ending managements’ demands for a 3-year wage freeze that had grown out of a counter-productive post-Great Recession conservative infatuation with public sector austerity, or more precisely, a mindset that held that workers had to sacrifice to help clean up the economic mess caused by financial sector excesses.

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The Burden of Atrocity

We are years into a 13 year Commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, officially underway since May 2012.  If that math seems messy, it is one small indication of the  long, deep, and still confounding legacy of that war.  Faculty member Penny Lewis wrote about our memory of the class dynamics of the antiwar movement in her book, Hardhats, Hippies and Hawks: The Vietnam Antiwar Movement as Myth and Memory (Cornell University Press, 2013), and returns to the subject in a review essay published in Jacobin and Salon this past week. 

Testifying in 1971 as part of the Winter Soldier Investigation, a war crimes hearing sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton distinguished the American war in Vietnam from other conflicts:

There’s a quality of atrocity in this war that goes beyond that of other wars in that the war itself is fought as a series of atrocities. There is no distinction between an enemy whom one can justifiably fire at and people whom one murders in less than military situations.

Concluding this thought by reflecting on the experience of soldiers and veterans, Lifton observed, “Now if one carries this sense of atrocity with one, one carries the sense of descent into evil.” Continue reading The Burden of Atrocity