Category Archives: New Labor Forum

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New Labor Forum

New Labor Forum is a national labor journal from the Murphy Institute and the City University of New York. Published three times a year, New Labor Forum provides a place for labor and its allies to test and debate new ideas. Issues we explore include (but are not limited to): the global economy’s impact on work and labor; new union organizing and political strategies; labor’s new constituencies and their relationship to organized labor’s traditional institutions; internal union reform and new structural models for the labor movement; alternative economic and social policies; and the role of culture in a new, revitalized labor movement. Read the latest issue or subscribe to New Labor Forum.

New Labor Forum Highlights: November 2019

The New Labor Forum has a monthly 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.

Two historically important strikes came to a close last week, as 49,000 GM workers returned to work after the longest national work stoppage against the automaker in half a century; and 25,000 teachers and 7,500 school employees headed back to Chicago schools after landmark gains in negotiations with the city. Part of a rising tide of victorious strikes during the past two years, these workplace actions represent advancements worth noting in both public and private sector bargaining.

With $8.1 billion in earnings at GM in 2018 and $1.5 million in annual salary going to chief executive Mary Barra, UAW members were hell-bent on sharing in the company’s reversal of fortune since the Great Recession. A primary bargaining concern for workers was to raise the abysmal wages at the low end of their multi-tier contract, which included both temporary workers and “in progression workers” hired after 2007. A hallmark divide and conquer tool of management, multi-tier wage scales sell out the unborn by establishing lower wages and benefits for new hires, thus undermining worker solidarity and, in effect, giving employers reason to target older, more expensive workers. Undoing a multi-tier contract, which is precisely what UAW members managed to do, requires a heightened level of worker solidarity, given the need to direct contract gains toward workers on the lower end, in this case roughly 37% of the GM workforce. This sort of egalitarianism, heightened solidarity, and militancy in the private sector, the core of our economy, bodes well for a labor movement struggling to revive itself.

The Chicago Teachers Union − a leader in experimentation with a promising new strategy called Bargaining for the Common Good − won major concessions last week from the city in the form of contract language that went well beyond traditional negotiations over wages and benefits. Putting the demands of their community-based allies on the bargaining table, the union won lower class sizes and guarantees that every school will employ a nurse and social worker, as well as 120 new counselors, restorative justice coordinators and librarians in the highest-need schools, and improved staffing in bilingual and special education. These demands, including an unmet bargaining demand for affordable housing, make the union an increasingly powerful voice in policy-level concerns that impact educational outcomes. The strategic advance of Bargaining for the Common Good in the public sector presents a dramatic advance in joining the interests of worker and tax-payers in securing well-funded, equitable, high quality public services. The CTU strike, joined by SEIU Local 73, points the way in that direction.

With this installment of the newsletter, we offer a New Labor Forum article by Jobs with Justice Executive Director Erica Smiley that assesses organized labor’s growing militancy and innovation during the last year. We also bring to your attention to new publication from Labor Notes , “How to Strike and Win ,” which seeks to encourage and inform the rising tide of strikes by providing analysis and resources for unions and workers contemplating how, why and when to use the strike weapon.

Table of Contents

  1. Crisis, Creativity, and a Labor Movement Revival /  Erica Smiley, New Labor Forum
  2. How to Strike and Win/ Labor Notes, November 2019 Issue

Photo by Charles Edward Miller via flickr (cc-by-sa)

New Labor Forum Highlights: October 7th, 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.

Over a half-century ago, in a farewell address to the nation, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned citizens to “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence . . . by the military-industrial complex.” Eisenhower’s admonition of “the disastrous rise of misplaced power” implicit in the burgeoning Cold War arms build-up would soon come to seem radical. And for decades hence, the words “military-industrial complex,” were seldom uttered by office holders or candidates in either the Republican or Democratic Party. Continue reading New Labor Forum Highlights: October 7th, 2019

New Labor Forum Highlights: July 1st, 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.

The 50th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion — commemorated yesterday as New York City hosted World Pride 2019 – offers an opportunity to reexamine the demographics and political goals of the contemporary LGBTQ movement in the U.S. While the media has for decades conveyed the image of the gay world as a white, middle-class, even affluent, one, the data simply doesn’t bear that out. According to a study by UCLA’s Williams Institute, the poverty rate of LGBTQ adults is, in fact, higher than for heterosexual adults. And nearly one in five members of same-sex couples in the United States are people of color. For just that reason, activists in the gay liberation movement a half century ago explicitly linked their struggle to broader movements, sometimes even anti-capitalist ones, fighting for social and economic equality. Since the 1990s, however, a sizable portion of the movement came to train its sights more narrowly on legal rights, especially the right to marry and join the military, in part conforming to the normative expectations of middle-class America.

The fact that yesterday’s enormous World Pride/ Stonewall 50 commemoration in New York City included the Queer Liberation march — an anti-capitalist, racial justice-infused alternative to the main Pride march — indicates a growing critique of the mainstream, assimilationist politics of the LGBTQ movement. We offer here two New Labor Forum articles on precisely these issues, one by Richard Blum, entitled Stonewall at 50: Whose Movement Is It Anyway? assessing the two marches and their diverging politics and constituencies; and another by Amber Hollibaugh and Margot Weiss, making the argument that the majority of LGBTQ people are poor and working-class and that the labor movement should take this fact into account as it seeks to organize in low-wage sectors where LGBTQ people make up a disproportionately high percentage of workers. And we close with an arresting poem Frank Bidart.

Table of Contents
  1. Stonewall at 50: Whose Movement Is It Anyway?/ Richard Blum, New Labor Forum
  2. Queer Precarity the Myth of Gay Affluence/ Amber Hollibaugh and Margot Weiss, New Labor Forum
  3. Queer/ Frank Bidart, Metaphysical Dog

Featured photo by samchills via flickr (cc-by)

New Labor Forum Highlights: June 10th, 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 current issue of New Labor Forum , columnist Sarah Jaffe covers a very bright spot in the contemporary labor movement: the impressive union organizing taking place at digital media outlets around the country. Beginning in 2010 with Truthout, the first digital newsroom to organize, then since 2015, a wave of unionization has taken place at outlets that include: Gawker, The Onion, The Dodo, Gizmodo Media Group, HuffPost, Mic.com, Thrillist, Mic, Jacobin, Fast Company, The Onion, BuzzFeed, Vox Media, Slate, Salon, the Intercept, MTV News, and the fashion site Refinery29.

Campaigns with the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) and NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America (CWA) have been led largely by millenials and, as Steven Greenhouse reports in an article in NiemanLab included here, have focused on raising abysmal starting wages, improving benefits packages, and protecting workers from the precarity that characterizes the industry. And according to TeenVogue columnist Kim Kelly − who figures in Jaffe’s and Greenhouse’s reporting and spoke at a CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies forum – collective bargaining at these media outlets has also begun to make strides toward improving workplace culture and bringing about “the world we think we want.” New digital media union members continue to experiment with their own feisty and innovative organizing to secure labor contracts. For instance, just last Thursday at Vox Media, approximately 300 workers stayed out of work to pressure the company to settle a contract that’s been in negotiation since April of last year. The dearth of fresh content to post left the company high and dry for the day and seems likely to spur a settlement.

Table of Contents
  1. The Labor Movement Comes to Virtual Reality: Unionizing Digital Media/ Sarah Jaffe,New Labor Forum
  2. Why are digital newsrooms unionizing now?/ Steven Greenhouse, Nieman Lab
  3. The Next Generation: Young Workers Building Movements/ The Murphy Institute, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies

Photo by lizsmith via flickr (cc-by-nc-nd)

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)

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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