Tag Archives: Organizing

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

What’s the Deal with Tariffs?

When the president starts talking trade protectionism, it can be hard to know how to evaluate his rhetoric. SLU professor Stephanie Luce untangled some of the history and policy particulars of the thorny subject of tariffs for Organizing Upgrade:

Donald Trump voiced the real concerns of many Americans when he spoke of the need to bring jobs to communities and to end unfair trade deals. By blocking the Trans-Pacific Partnership, pushing a re-negotiation of NAFTA, and increasing tariffs on a range of imports, Trump has appeared to finally take seriously the needs of unemployed and underemployed workers. Some unions have been calling for tariffs for years, most notably the United Steelworkers. While Obama ran in 2008 on a promise to renegotiate NAFTA he never did so, and in fact became a relentless proponent of expanding “free trade.” Meanwhile, the Trump administration recently announced details of the draft deal with Mexico, and it appears to contain benefits for U.S. and Mexican workers.

So is Trump the worker’s hero? Will increased tariffs return jobs to the US? The left has been weak on this issue. On the one hand, we need to take economic development and job creation seriously. Workers are suffering. Even though official unemployment rates are low, more and more of the jobs people hold are low-wage, insecure, non-union, and dead-end. The left lacks a real program to address the real concerns of those impacted by trade deals. We need to better understand the history of tariffs and trade, and we need an international vision for economic development.

Read the article here.

Photo by M Cheung via flickr (cc)

Video: Energy from Unlikely Sources

On Friday, October 12th, members of the wider SLU community gathered to ask big questions about the future of the labor movement.

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?

It was a wide-ranging and probing conversation featuring Lauren Jacobs, Deputy Director, The Partnership for Working Families; Marilyn Sneiderman, Executive Director, Center for Innovation in Worker Organization, Rutgers University;
Larry Cohen, Chair, Board of Directors, Our Revolution, former president of Communications Workers of America (CWA); Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director, ALIGN NY; and SLU’s own Penny Lewis.

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

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