Tag Archives: Labor

Event: Energy From Unlikely Sources: Opportunities For New Organizing (10/12)

Fri, October 12, 2018
8:30 AM – 10:30 AM EDT
CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies
25 W. 43rd Street, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10036

RSVP HERE

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?

Speakers Include:

Lauren Jacobs, Deputy Director, The Partnership for Working Families

Prior to joining PWF, Jacobs worked with the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC) as the National Organizing Director, and served as an organizer with UNITE and later SEIU. She organized thousands of previously non-union workers in three major metropolitan areas, and led campaigns that resulted in breakthroughs in wages, healthcare and other benefits.

Marilyn Sneiderman, Executive Director, Center for Innovation in Worker Organization, Rutgers University

Sneiderman has directed the National AFL-CIO’s Department of Field Mobilization, launching the national “Union Cities” initiative. Sneiderman served as Executive Director of AVODAH, Education Director at the Teamsters, faculty at the George Meany Center for Labor Studies and Georgetown Law School, and was an organizer and rank and file leader at AFSCME.

Larry Cohen, Chair, Board of Directors, Our Revolution, former president of Communications Workers of America (CWA)

Cohen is the former president of the Communications Workers of America. Cohen chaired major contract negotiations in the public and private sectors, including at Verizon and AT&T. He built alliances and support for telecom workers around the world, including in Mexico, Taiwan, South Africa, Germany and other countries. He is a founder of Jobs with Justice.

Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director, ALIGN NY

Silva-Farrell played critical roles in coalitions such as Real Affordability for AllCaring Across Generations, the Universal Pre-K campaign, and the campaign that successfully halted Walmart’s development in East New York. Silva-Farrell is on the board of Partnership for Working FamiliesNew York Communities Organizing Fund, and Edward J. Malloy Initiative for Construction Skills.

Moderated by Penny Lewis, Professor CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies

Taking Back the Wheel: On Labor’s Future

How do we understand the future of labor? Will it be one of total automation and increasingly precarious workers? Perhaps if Uber has anything to say about it. SLU’s Kafui Attoh has co-authored an article with Declan Cullen and Kathryn Wells in Dissent that tackles some of these thorny questions called “Taking Back the Wheel.” Here’s an excerpt:

Uber argues that its biggest boon to “driver partners” is to present them with independence, flexibility, and more-than-competitive compensation. In this argument the on-demand economy ushers in a bright new future and an ostensibly new labor category: the flexible worker. In a twist on Marx’s utopian dream, such a worker can, Frank Pasquale pithily comments, “knit Etsy scarves in the morning, drive Uber cars in the afternoon, and write Facebook comments at night, flexibly shifting between jobs and leisure at will.”

Of course, the neoliberal utopia of a sharing economy operated by highly contingent workers has been shaken by a multitude of analyses telling a markedly different story. These studies, including ours, emphasize precaritysurveillancecontrollow earnings, and insecure conditions. If the Uber model is the future of work, they tell us, that future looks bleak.

Behind all these debates lurks a deeper premise: that the future of work is actually no work at all. 

But according to Attoh and his co-authors, that future isn’t inevitable:

We should resist this logic of inevitability and see platform capitalism for what it is: a means to mobilize a reserve labor army, overcome barriers to accumulation, and fight declining rates of profit. We are not yet on the road to Uberworld. There’s still time for us to wrest back control, not just of the future, but also of the present.

How might we do that? Read the article here for an accounting of the stakes and possibilities — and learn why Uber is less in control of the future than we might be made to think.

Photo by Maurizio Pesce via flickr (CC-BY)

Debating the Merits of a Job Guarantee

By Steven Attewell

This Labor Day, many people no doubt gave thanks for the low unemployment rate (while perhaps bemoaning wages that aren’t keeping up with inflation). Yet at the same time, at many Democratic Party Labor Day BBQs, presidential candidates and other elected and activists touted proposals for a job guarantee to ensure full employment.

What explains this seeming contradiction? Part of it is that low unemployment doesn’t seem to be resulting in the wage gains that it used to. Part of it is that progressives want to be prepared for the next recession, so that we don’t have to wait years and years for full recovery. Part of it is that progressives want some way to appeal to working class white voters without throwing people of color under the bus.

This sudden flood of proposals on job guarantees has provoked a lively discussion on the merits of these proposals. One of the common refrains in this debate is a skepticism about whether the Federal government could employ so many people so soon. Continue reading Debating the Merits of a Job Guarantee

New Labor Forum Highlights, Labor Day Edition

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.

New Labor Forum’s September 2018 print issue is rolling off the press now. It contains as good a reason as there is to subscribe now:  thoughtful analysis and lucid writing on a wide range of issues vital to anyone who cares about the prospects of workers and working-class communities in the U.S. and throughout the world. Articles in the new issue: assess the options available to blue collar women and female care workers seeking to combat sexual harassment; ask if there is a deep state and what interests it serves; argue that the labor of Palestinians in building the Israeli nation magnifies their claim for full citizenship rights; and trace the remarkable rise of Jeremy Corbyn, once a marginal figure, held in contempt by UK Labour Party elites, now leader of the party and with a chance to lead the country.

On this Labor Day, we highlight two proposals to organized labor. In the first, Larry Cohen argues for a new national system of collective bargaining, modeled on the sectoral bargaining that sets industry-wide wages and working conditions for workers from Norway to South Africa. Moshe Marvit and Shaun Richman make the case for new “Right to Your Job” legislation that would end our “at will” employment regime and force employers to prove that terminations are related to work-performance. Because this legislation stands a fair chance of passing in a number of municipal and state legislatures, Marvit and Richman insists it should become a policy priority for organized labor and its allies.

And we announce that the CUNY Board of Trustees has voted to establish the Murphy Institute, publisher of New Labor Forum, as the new CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies. The School’s inaugural round of fall public programming, begins with a public forum on September 14th, entitled A Failing Marriage: Democracy & Capitalism.


Table of Contents

  1. The Time Has Come for Sectoral Bargaining/ Larry Cohen, New Labor Forum
  2. The Case for “A Right to Your Job” Campaign/ Moshe Marvit and Shaun Richman, New Labor Forum
  3. Save the Date-Is A Democratic Capitalism Possible?/ Murphy Institute, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies

Photo by Garry Knight via flickr

Labor Notes Shares Vision for Organizing in Post-Janus America

Since the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME declared required agency fees for public sector unions unconstitutional, many in the labor world and media are scrambling to ask the question: Can labor unions bounce back after Janus?

According to Labor Notes, the answer is yes — but it will require thought and a plan. The publication just released “Rebuilding Power in Open-Shop America,” offering historical context, a diagnostic tool and a prescription for how workers and their unions can remain strong and regain and rebuild power.

Check it out.

Millennials and the Labor Movement that Refuses to Die

This post was originally featured at Mobilizing Ideas.

By Ruth Milkman

Two years ago I focused my ASA Presidential address on social movements led by Millennials, building on Karl Mannheim’s classic treatise on “The Problem of Generations.”  As the first generation of “digital natives,” and the one most directly impacted by the economic precarity that emerged from the neoliberal transformation of the labor market, the Millennial generation has a distinctive life experience and worldview.  Disappointed by the false promises of racial and gender equality, and faced with skyrocketing growth in class inequality, Millennial activists embrace an explicitly intersectional political agenda.  This generation is  the most highly educated one in U.S. history, and indeed it is college-educated Millennials who have been most extensively galvanized into political activism.  My address documented their role as the dominant demographic in four high-profile 21st-century social movements:  Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, the “Dreamers” and the campus-based activism around sexual assault (which later helped spark the multi-generational “Me Too” movement).

When I researched and wrote that piece, there was little evidence of a significant Millennial presence in the organized labor movement.  In fact, young workers have  been underrepresented among labor union members for decades, in part because of the scarcity of new union organizing efforts.  But now that may be changing.  In 2017, over three-quarters of the increase in union membership was accounted for by workers under 35 years old, as a recent Economic Policy Institute post noted. (The total number of U.S. union members in 2017 rose by about 262,ooo over the previous year, although the unionization rate was unchanged.)  In addition, survey data show that Millennials express far more pro-union attitudes than their baby boomer counterparts do. Continue reading Millennials and the Labor Movement that Refuses to Die