Jobs with Justice: 25 Years, 25 Voices. Edited by Eric Larsen (PM Press, 2013)
As an occasional historian, I cannot do justice to the richness contained in these interviews and essays that reflect upon the experiences over 25 years of diverse community, labor, immigrant and student activists that have built the local Jobs with Justice coalitions at grassroots levels. Read the book!
As a reviewer, I will call particular attention to the introduction by IUE-CWA President Larry Cohen and the concluding essay by Sarita Gupta, the current Executive Director of Jobs with Justice (JwJ).
No one in the national labor movement can match the perseverance of Larry Cohen, whose vision founded Jobs with Justice, and whose commitment to building that organization never faltered when other union leaders wavered.
The nationally networked local coalitions that make up JwJ have had their share of both failures and successes, but over a generation they have waged worker-community struggles based on the principle of mutual solidarity. The model was a hybrid of organizations and individual activists, based on a solidarity pledge to “be there” for others as needed.
If the AFL-CIO has now come to proclaim its adherence to these ideas, it is not only out of desperation, but out of a collective practice and habits built over decades by JwJ coalitions in communities throughout the country.
The essay by Sarita Gupta projects this model into the future. Her goal is “to build the biggest and broadest alignment of unions and organizations committed to advancing the interests of the whole working class.” No organization across the progressive spectrum can do this alone. Building an inclusive and comprehensive movement requires a strategy based on collaboration among many organizations to develop effective interventions.
Jobs with Justice remains well positioned to help carry out this ambitious program nationally and in many localities. This book demonstrates how in recent years JwJ coalitions have developed new ties to activist immigrant and student organizations and JwJ has increasingly recruited staff and leadership from these crucial sectors. As we collectively think about the next steps to building a better Left presence in the USA, reflect upon the people and their experiences in Jobs with Justice, 25 Years, 25 Voices.