Posted on July 27, 2014 by paulgarver
by Paul Garver
Eli Friedman’s Insurgency Trap: Labor Politics in Postsocialist China is indispensable for anyone trying to understand what is happening with hundreds of millions of internal migrant workers in China today. Postsocialist China has become the world’s largest manufacturing center and exporter to the rest of the world, and the future of Chinese society and of the global economy hinges on whether the new Chinese working class remains excluded from its social and political system.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Global organizing, Immigrant Workers, Solidarity | Tagged: ACFTU, China, Eli Friedman, Insurgency Trap | 1 Comment »
Posted on July 10, 2014 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Bruce Vail
An illustration from an 1877 issue of Harper’s Magazine depicts the bloody confrontation between state militia and Great Railroad Strike supporters that took place on the streets of Baltimore. (Public Domain)
Many historians date the first great industrial upheaval of American labor to July 16, 1877, when workers on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad began refusing to work in protest against a round of wage cuts ordered by the company’s senior managers. Battered by years of economic depression, high unemployment and miserable working conditions, the workers in Baltimore and beyond had finally been pushed to the breaking point.
Even without any broad-based union organization, the B&O strike immediately seized the public imagination. The unrest spread rapidly to other railroads before expanding to include workers at mines and factories in widely scattered locations across the country. At its height, the six-week-long “Great Railroad Strike” involved an estimated 100,000 workers in more than a dozen states, and succeeded in paralyzing much of the nation’s transportation system.
The sudden uprising engendered fear—and more than a little panic—among railroad executives and government officials. Within just a few days, the first great national strike in U.S. history became one of its first great industrial tragedies, as state militia units and federal troops moved to suppress the movement. Soldiers fired on strikers and protesters during epic clashes in Chicago, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and elsewhere. More than 100 people were killed; thousands more were injured. In the end, the strike was crushed, setting a precedent for the violent suppression of labor unrest that would stain American labor history for generations to come.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Labor History | Tagged: 1877 Railroad Strike, Baltimore | Leave a comment »
Posted on July 9, 2014 by paulgarver
by Paul Garver
Dan Gallin’s career as a socialist and union activist now spans more than six decades. Child of an exiled Romanian diplomat, he was recruited to “Third Camp” Socialism (Socialist Youth League/International Socialist League) as a college student at the University of Kansas in the early 1950’s. Forced to leave the USA for his political activities, he rejoined his family in Switzerland where he became a Swiss citizen and a member of the Swiss Socialist Party. Opting to labor in the international workers’ movement rather than the socialist political movement, he joined the staff of the International Union of Food Workers (IUF), which he served as General Secretary from 1968 to 1997.
Solidarity is a collection of 19 of Dan Gallin’s essays, including two autobiographical articles, three pieces from the late 1950s and early 1960s, one from his tenure as IUF General Secretary, and the remainder from the last twelve years. Dan Gallin’s interview by Eric Lee of LabourStart can serve as an introduction to the book.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Global organizing, Solidarity | Tagged: Dan Gallin, LabourStart, Solidarity | Leave a comment »
Posted on July 8, 2014 by dsalaborblogmoderator
“We substitute teachers like to think of ourselves as the marines of the public education system. Whenever a breach opens in our nation’s educational front lines, off we go: The few, the brave, the stupid.” –From Tom Gallagher’s SUB
by Steve Early
Thirty years ago, there was no better progressive state legislator in Massachusetts than Tom Gallagher, who migrated to Beacon Hill after graduating from Boston College and working as a part-time public school teacher.
In 1980, Gallagher won a Democratic primary in the Allston-Brighton section of the city in September. Thanks to Boston being a one party town, there wasn’t even a token Republican on the ballot in November. As Gallagher recalls in his new memoir, SUB: My Years Underground in America’s Schools (Coast to Coast Publishing, 2014) , his personal profile at the time was:
“reasonably normal for a substitute teacher—I was a guy in his twenties sort of waiting for something to happen….So while I had a big deal political job waiting for me in January, I was flat broke and in no position to be looking for other ‘real’ work during the months of October, November, and December. So I returned to subbing for the interim.”
Filed under: Book Reviews | Tagged: Sub, substitute teachers, Tom Gallagher | 1 Comment »
Posted on June 10, 2014 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Stuart Elliott
Dan Gallin’s book Solidarity was officially and fittingly launched at the recent LabourStart “Global Crisis, Global Solidarity” conference. Gallin, now in his eighties, is a legendary figure in the international labor movement, having served for many years as General Secretary of the IUF, the international trade union secretariat of food workers union. Gallin transformed, modernized, and democratized the IUF. Unafraid to break new ground, guided by the values of “third camp socialism” he learned in the American Independent Socialist League, he embraced the organization of domestic and informal workers decades ago. Currently, he is Chair of the Global Labour Institute (GLI), a labor service organization established in 1997 with a secretariat in Geneva, with affiliates in Moscow and New York . In this video, he is introduced by Eric Lee, founding editor of LabourStart.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Global organizing, Solidarity | Tagged: Dan Gallin, LabourStart, Solidarity | 1 Comment »
Posted on June 3, 2014 by dsalaborblogmoderator
Since the 1970s, Steve Early has produced more than 300 pieces of labor journalism for publications as varied as the New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Nation, LaborNotes and In These Times. Throughout his career, Early has covered stories of dysfunction and corruption within unions that many labor reporters are afraid to touch out of fear of upsetting high-level union sources.
At time when the labor beat was disappearing from mainstream publications, Early’s writing formed a valuable body of work that inspired many young writers—myself included—to stick with the profession through its highs and lows.
Early sat down with me to discuss his new book, Save Our Unions: Dispatches From a Movement in Distress, out this spring from Monthly Review Press. Continue reading
Filed under: Book Reviews | Tagged: labor journalism, Save Our Unions, Steve Early | Leave a comment »
Posted on May 20, 2014 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Deborah Meier
Dear friends and readers,
I’m in the process of putting together a collection of my writings on democracy with my friend, editor and co-thinker, Andy Hrycyna. I’m also in the process of straightening up my house—e.g. getting rid of books I’ll never reread (or read), etc. In the process I’ve rediscovered so many books that are about the topic of democracy that I either never read when I got them or have forgotten. I started pulling them out and scanning them—in astonishment. They either said much of what I was trying to say or had ideas I had not yet even considered but that seemed very relevant.
In short, if we all stopped writing new books for about five years and devoted ourselves to doing the same—reading the books we already have—we’d be amazed at how many wonderful ideas are floating out there in the form of books that haven’t been sufficiently appreciated. (I note that when I’m deciding whether to read a book I eagerly look first to see whether my name appears, or a book I’ve written—then I look for Ted Sizer’s name, then Symour Sarason, Eleanor Duckworth, Maxine Green, Herb Kohl, John Holt, Jonathon Kozol, etc etc). But in fact…there are a whole cast of old “new” (or new old) characters I’m determined to add to my list.
For example. Just yesterday I pulled off my selves the following nine “new” books—all 20-49 years old. A generation ago. They are in no order—just the order of the pile next to my desk at the moment.
Crisis in the Classroom: The Remaking of American Education, by Charles Silberman. 1971. It was a ground breaker. My falling apart copy has notes and underlinings on every page. (It was published by Vintage and I have no idea if it’s still available—except in libraries.)
Filed under: Book Reviews | Tagged: Democracy, Education | 1 Comment »
Posted on May 12, 2014 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Gregory N. Heires
The New Deal era beginning in the 1930s set up the government structure we enjoy today. But ever since, conservatives have waged a protected war on “Big Government.”
The assault on government deepened with the presidency of Ronald Reagan, and more recently deficit phobia greatly hindered the Obama administration’s policy response to the Great Recession. The Republican campaign to destroy Obamacare is not so much about health care as chipping away at the size of government.
When Government Helped: Learning from the Successes and Failures of the New Deal (Oxford University Press: 2013), edited by Sheila D. Collins and Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg, examines how President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s government policies established our welfare state and helped the United States recover from the Great Depression. Collins is a professor emerita of political science from Williams Paterson University and an executive committee member of the National Jobs for All Coalition. Goldberg is a professor emerita of social policy from Adelphi University and chair of the national Jobs for All Coalition.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Politics | Tagged: FDR, New Deal, When Government Helped | Leave a comment »
Posted on May 6, 2014 by dsalaborblogmoderator
The organizing efforts around precarious employment in New York often focus on combating issues of injustice around race and gender in addition to raising wages, strengthening benefits and improving work environment. (Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York)
New York City can sometimes feel like ground zero for the battle over inequality. Up until a few months ago, its mayor was one of the world’s richest men; it is home to Wall Street and movie stars, and it seems as though every oligarch from every country in the world has an apartment here.
Here, too, are the millions of working people who make the city run, and all too many of those working people are barely making enough to get by. In her introduction to the new book New Labor in New York, out now from Cornell University Press, sociologist Ruth Milkman points out that while New York has the nation’s highest union density, the city also has one of the highest levels of income inequality among large cities.
It is against this background that worker centers and other forms of non-union labor organizing have flourished, won victories, hit setbacks and managed to grow. And it is against that background that Milkman and her colleague Ed Ott, both professors at the City University of New York’s Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies, decided to teach a course that would ask students at the Murphy Institute and the CUNY Graduate Center to write an in-depth profile of one worker center or labor organization and its innovations. After two semesters of field research, study, and collaborative workshopping, these profiles were collected into the book. Taken together, they make up a valuable resource for evaluating today’s labor organizing, its successes and failures.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Organizing | Tagged: Freelancers' Union, New Labor in New York, Retail Action Project, ROC, Taxi Workers Alliance | Leave a comment »
Posted on April 2, 2014 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Joe Burns
Many times in discussing labor issues the tendency is to focus on policy issues or major events far removed from the workplace. In Lines of Work: Stories of Jobs and Resistance, a couple dozen workers from the US, Canada and Great Britain, loosely affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World, seek to turn the conversation in a different direction—to tell stories of work and the workplace. Sometimes they talk about workplace struggles and resistance; sometimes they talk about their jobs and work. There is something refreshing about this approach.
The book contains over thirty chapters with stories ranging from a warehouse worker’s fight against speedup to a clerical worker’s struggle to make her liberal boss at small non-profit understand her class privilege to a liquor store worker’s organizing against sexual harassment. Some of the stories are about organizing campaigns, such as Starbuck workers, others are about personal battles with victories as small as getting workers to celebrate each other’s birthdays over the boss’ objection. All, however, are up close and personal and share a common perspective that talking about time spent at work is important.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Low wage workers, Organizing, Uncategorized | Tagged: IWW, Organizing | 1 Comment »