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New Labor Forum Highlights: March 4th, 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.

Until recently, it has been assumed that among the most highly skilled and best paid soft-ware engineers and technicians, the chances of collective resistance to the labor and other managerial practices of the giants of the industry were virtually nil. However, journalist Julianne Tveten’s article for New Labor Forum’s winter 2019 issue records the growing fight back on the part of precisely these kinds of workers at places like Google and Microsoft. And some recent tech worker efforts have resulted in remarkable victories. Among them, the protest of senior engineers and others at Google that caused the company to end “Project Maven,” its contract with the Defense Department using artificial intelligence to improve the strike precision of the Pentagon’s drones. A distinct feature of this new organizing is the manner in which it combines political and more traditional labor organizing.

Protests against sexual harassment at Google have brought these forms of organizing together to achieve a very recent, notable victory. In Wired, Nitasha Tiku covers the protests’ latest results: the ending of the company’s practice barring workers from initiating class-action suits, or from suing over discrimination or wrongful termination. The widening ideological and political divide between Silicon Valley’s CEOs and its employees has, no doubt, contributed to these advances. Moira Weigel and Ben Tarnoff, writing for The New Republic, note that media outlets have largely failed to take account of tech workers’ growing tendency to eschew the libertarianism prevalent in the corner offices of Silicon Valley for the solidarity of the labor movement. As evidence of this yawning ideological divide, we invite you to view SpeakOut.Tech’s video incitement to tech workers to stand up against their employers, assuring them, “We’ve got your back,” words common in any union hall.
Table of Contents
  1. Daniel in the Lion’s Den: Platform Workers Take on the Tech Giants in the Workplace and the World/ Julianne Tveten, New Labor Forum
  2. Google Ends Forced Arbitration After Employee Protest/Nitasha Tiku, Wired
  3. The Stark Political Divide between Tech CEOs and Their Employees/Moira Weigel and Ben Tarnoff, The New Republic
  4. Tech workers have incredible power/SpeakOut.Tech

Continue reading New Labor Forum Highlights: March 4th, 2019

New Labor Forum Highlights: January 22nd, 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.

Original insights into the workings of an ever-evolving capitalism are rare occurrences. We are proud to be publishing one in the winter 2019 print issue of New Labor Forum.  The article, by Shoshana Zuboff, offered in today’s installment of our newsletter, presents a theory of surveillance capitalism. It’s an essay length summation of her book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, published to much acclaim and rave reviews.  Zuboff argues that surveillance capitalism opens up a whole new era in capital accumulation. It relies on a process of primitive accumulation, which has always been characteristic of capitalism, but extends capital’s reach beyond nature and human labor into the interior, intimate life of human beings, by tracking, manipulating, and trading in human behavior. She calls the new system the “Big Other” and ponders what new forms of collective resistance might need to emerge to challenge the dominion of surveillance capitalism.
Table of Contents: 
  1. Surveillance Capitalism and the Challenge of Collective Action/ Shoshana Zuboff, New Labor Forum
  2. How Tech Companies Manipulate Our Personal Data/ Jacob Silverman, New York Times

Continue reading New Labor Forum Highlights: January 22nd, 2019

New Labor Forum Highlights: January 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.

While reports on the political implications of the current partial government shutdown continue to run on the front pages of major news outlets, less attention has been paid to the 800,000 workers who are going without a pay check. It’s been a decidedly unhappy holiday season for the roughly 400,000 furloughed workers and the approximately 400,000 essential workers forced to keep working without compensation. These workers and their union, the American Federation of Government Employees, are prohibited under federal law from striking or even from bargaining over wages. The union has opted to file a lawsuit against the government alleging that the act of forcing employees deemed essential to work without pay is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. And, in the meantime, many of those workers have decided to take matters into their own hands in the form of a sickout. As it turns out, Transportation Security Officers (TSA), who get us all through airport security checkpoints on starting salaries that run as low as $25,000 to $30,000 per year, have had enough. Beginning yesterday, the TSA sickout appears to be making a real impact on wait times at airports from New York to Salt Lake City. This may be the beginning of an upsurge of greater militancy among federal workers. We include here a number of articles and a video that explore this vital aspect of the current government shutdown.
Table of Contents: 
  1. How Federal Workers Could Fight the Shutdown/ Ben Beckett and Ryan Haney, Jacobin
  2. Airport Security Lines Grow Across the Nation As TSA Sickout Continues/ Grant Martin, Forbes
  3. Union leader discusses lawsuit against President Trump over shutdown/ The Hill
  4. All 20 previous government shutdowns, explained/ Dylan Matthews, Vox

Continue reading New Labor Forum Highlights: January 7th, 2019

New Labor Forum Highlights: Dec. 19th, 2018

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 this holiday season, if you’ve resisted online shopping through Amazon, you’re in the diminishing minority. More than half of all online retail searches presently begin with Amazon, and the company now takes in fully half of all web-based consumer purchases made in the United States. It therefore behooves us to reckon with the behemoth’s gravitational pull on our economy, and indeed on the global economy. An impressive report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), included in this newsletter, goes a long way toward measuring Amazon’s impact on local economies in the form of shuttered businesses, net job losses, low wages for its warehouse workers, and many millions of dollars of lost tax revenue owing to Amazon’s successful tax avoidance schemes.

As evidenced in the following news articles, Amazon’s global workforce is increasingly refusing to take it on the chin. Its workers in Europe and the U.S. are engaging in traditional labor organizing, as well as organizing intended to protest the company’s business model and its inroads into dubious ventures, as in the development of facial recognition technology for law enforcement. In 2019, New Labor Forum will be publishing a number of articles that examine the ways in which Amazon and other Silicon Valley giants have altered the functioning of capitalism in the twenty-first century, thereby presenting new challenges and opportunities for worker and political organizing. So, if you haven’t already subscribed, please do so now and see below for a special holiday gift.

Table of Contents: 
  1. Amazon’s Stranglehold: How the Company’s Tightening Grip Is Stifling Competition, Eroding Jobs, and Threatening Communities/ Olivia LaVecchia and Stacy Mitchell, Institute For Local Self-Reliance
  2. Hundreds March on Amazon Fulfillment Center in Minnesota/ Bryan Menegus, Portside Labor 
  3. German union calls strike at Amazon warehouse/ Emma Thomasson, Reuters  

Photo by thisisbossi via flickr (CC-BY-SA)

New Labor Forum Highlights: December 3rd, 2018

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.

With this installment of the New Labor Forum newsletter, we take a break from our bi-weekly offering of free articles, reports, videos, and poems. This holiday season, we ask you to support the journal by taking out a gift subscription now for a friend and subscribe or re-up yourself for 2019!  This month, subscribers will also receive a free back issue of New Labor Forum from 2018.

The journal has a long and proud history of publishing the work of cutting-edge labor activists, first-rate scholars, and journalists who debate and discuss the full range of issues confronting workers and working-class communities. Highlights from the January 2019 issue provide manifest proof of that:

Subscribe to New Labor Forum

Shoshana Zuboff’s Surveillance Capitalism and the Challenge of Collective Actionwill present an extended essay summation of her forthcoming book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power.  Zuboff theorizes how surveillance capitalism opens up a whole new era in capital accumulation.  Relying on a process of primitive accumulation, which has always been characteristic of capitalism, it extends capital’s reach beyond nature and human labor into the interior, intimate life of human beings, by tracking, manipulating, and trading in human behavior.  She calls the new system the “Big Other” and ponders what new forms of collective resistance might emerge to challenge the dominion of surveillance capitalism.

In Renewing Working-Class Internationalism, Aziz Rana will reckon with the fact that, for some time now, the new left as a whole, pre-occupied with domestic political issues, has failed to offer an alternative vision of a left foreign policy.  His article will suggest what a left foreign policy should entail, urging progressives to break through the artificial division between domestic and foreign affairs, arguing − as did social democrats of yesteryear − that the dominion of capital at home depends on its political and economic over-lordship throughout the rest of the world.

Ted Fertik will offer provocative answers to the question What Did the Midterms Tell Us About the Future of the Electoral Left?  Presenting an anatomy of the left’s electoral coalition,  he’ll take a stab at assessing the prospects for “multiracial left populism.”

And in Sex Work Is Work, Riley Renegade, a sex worker and organizer, will pan the trepidation of feminists and labor organizers to accept this form of labor that far predates capitalism.  She describes both the harmfully exploitative and the rewarding nature of work in her segment of this multi-billion dollar industry.

New Labor Forum Highlights: November 5th, 2018

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.

With perhaps the most important midterm elections in a generation happening tomorrow, we offer you: an invitation to join us in a post-election reporters roundtable on November 16th; a video from our September 14th forum, featuring the trenchant commentary of New York City Deputy Mayor J. Phillip Thompson on whether a democratic capitalism is possible; midterm polling data that shows white working-class voters in the Midwest returning to the Democratic Party; and a summary of ballot measures in tomorrow’s elections that seek either to expand and further contract our democracy.

Table of Contents:

  1. Blue Wave or Red Tide? 2018 Post-Election Reporters Roundtable/CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY
  2. Is a Democratic Capitalism Possible?/ J. Phillip Thompson, The Murphy Institute, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies
  3. Why are Democrats looking so strong in the Midwest?/ Perry Bacon Jr., FiveThirtyEight
  4. These are the biggest 2018 ballot measures on elections, voting rights, gerrymandering, and more/ Stephen Wolf, Daily Kos

Photo by Charlie Day vis flickr (cc-by-nd)