The Historical Shifts in the Ideology of Work | Valerie Reynoso

Theory | June 13th, 2019

The ideology of work has shifted through time by material changes imposed by capitalism-imperialism, an ongoing process that forms the condition of the working class and the social order that indoctrinates them. James R. Farr, Catherine W. Bishir, Karl Marx, John Ruskin, William Morris and Erin O'Connor are authors who have explored the relationships between work, history, and people. The historical shifts in the ideology of work are rooted in class struggle, in the synthesis of the thesis and antithesis of the proletariat (working class) and the bourgeoisie (capitalists), reminiscent of the former synthesis between the serf and feudal lord. Work becomes a practice of resistance when the proletariat realizes its socioeconomic value and moves toward seizing the means of production from the bourgeoisie. But before this can happen, workers must experience an ideology awakening of sorts - something that creates the realization that our constant struggle to survive under a system of wage labor is not only unnatural, but is an artificial arrangement made by a very small percentage of people who seek to make a perpetual fortune from our exploitation.

Read More

When and Why Did Unions Start Signing Contracts? | Robin J. Cartwright

History | June 6th, 2019

Today labor relations professionals take it for granted that unions seek to sign contracts with employers, but in Haywood's day this was a relatively new and controversial practice, one that started when he was a teenager. Contracts were originally invented by labor unions that believed they needed to give national leaders authority to restrain strikes and militancy, which could bankrupt the union or subject it to state violence. As labor unrest increased, employers looked for new methods to control their workforce and undermine strikes, eventually choosing to work with and co-opt moderate labor leaders and use their authority over union members to discipline the workforce. Over several decades, employers and union leaders experimented with a series of contracts, gradually developing a workplace contractualism that served both groups.

Read More

On the Latest Developments Within the U.S. Working Class | Ekim Kilic

Analysis | April 20th, 2019

The 2016 Presidential Elections were a turning point for U.S. labor and popular movements. Since then, provocative statements and decisions by the Trump government have been threatening millions of working peoples' lives. However, the actions of the current U.S. government are not independent of its predecessors and their economic applications that also carried out the needs of U.S. capital and its forces. Today, precarious employment and life conditions, a declining social safety net, and not being able to resonate their voice politically are headlines of the U.S. workers' current problems as a result of long-standing neoliberal policies and the 2008 financial crisis. In the midst of these issues, the U.S. working class experienced a revival the likes of which that has not been seen in a long time. According to an opinion article that was written for CNN by Richard Trumka, the president of AFL-CIO, "In the year since, working people have been doing just that. From airports and hospitals to newsrooms and college campuses, workers are organizing on a scale that I haven't seen in decades. More than a quarter-million Americans joined unions last year - three-quarters of them under 35."

Read More

The Immiseration of Labor: Capitalism, Poverty, and Inequality in Philadelphia | Arturo Castillon

Analysis | March 20th, 2019

The concept of immiseration is usually associated with Karl Marx, as he insisted that the nature of capitalist production resulted in the devaluation of labor, specifically the decline of wages relative to the total value created in the economy. For Marx, this meant that the proletarian class, or working class, was fundamentally defined by precariousness, i.e. material instability, uncertainty, insecurity, and dependency. This theory stems from Marx's analysis of the changing organic composition of capitalist production and the reduced demand for labor that emerges as technology develops and labor becomes more productive. With increasingly productive machines, less labor produces more commodities at a faster rate, leading to the gradual replacement of labor by machines. Marx observed that the realities of capitalist competition necessitated this tendency towards mechanization and rising productivity. If a factory in the South restructures production to raise its productivity - allowing it to sell more commodities, at a faster rate, and at a cheaper price, while employing less labor-while a rival factory in Philadelphia does not, then after a while the factory in the South will run the factory in Philadelphia out of business. In order to protect their market from more productive competitors, therefore, capitalists must reinvest part of their capital into increasing productivity, or perish in the long run.

Read More

West Virginia's Ongoing, Anti-Capitalist Struggle | Michael Mochaidean

Commentary | February 13th, 2019

One year ago, teachers and school service personnel in West Virginia rocked the nation with their historic nine-day statewide walkout. The movement was sparked in part due to declining state revenue for state employees' insurance plan - PEIA - and a persistent lack of wage growth compared to contiguous states. In the wake of the Mountain State's first statewide walkout in twenty-eight years, a rupture began to emerge between education workers and their states. Soon thereafter, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona witnessed their own statewide actions, ranging from a few days of actions to weeklong walkouts. State legislatures were forced to compromise by these strike actions. In Oklahoma, teachers won an additional $6,000 raise and an increase in school funding by over one hundred million dollars.

Read More

From Cruze to Cruise: False Consciousness and Dialectical Conflict in the GM Paradigm Shift | Werner Lange

Theory | December 6th, 2018

On Monday, November 26, General Motors publicly announced its decision to shut down all production at five major plants in 2019, including the sprawling Lordstown Assembly Plant in Ohio's Mahoning Valley, home of the Cruze model, and shift major investment to mass production of all-electric autonomous vehicles through its Cruise subsidiary, headquartered in California's Silicon Valley. This grand paradigm shift from traditional cars to autonomous ones marks a major change in GM operations, ones which will leave abandoned communities economically devastated and thousands of terminated workers financially paralyzed, while simultaneously paving a path toward zero-emission cars. Yet the resultant communal and private havoc imposed upon victimized communities will likely not lead, as it should, to a workers' revolt and political uprising; at least not in northeast Ohio. That disappointing but realistic projection is based upon the potency of widespread false consciousness among the masses, the seductive temptation of subscribing to false hopes, and the emergence of a new dialectical conflict uniting labor and management in an existential struggle against climate change.

Read More

The Unions and Class Struggle: A Marxist Analysis | The Socialist Party of Great Britain

Analysis | September 10th, 2018

What should be the attitude of socialists toward trade unions? Unions are the workers most effective means of defense under capitalism. In the absence of unions, the workers have no way of braking the downward pressure on their living standards and their working conditions. Only by means of their combined numbers in labor unions are the workers able to put up same form of resistance against the insatiable drive of capital for more surplus value. Only through unions can the workers ease the strain and stress on their nerves and muscles in the factories, mills, and mines. Since surplus value is produced at the paint of production, the most violent manifestations of the class struggle break out at that point. The history of the labor movement proves the Marxian contention that wages are not regulated by any "iron law" but can be modified by organized militant action on the part of the workers, the value of the workers labor-power is not only determined by physicall limitations of the human body, but also by what Marx calls historical and social factors. One of the most weighty of these factors is the class war.

Read More

Political Automatons and the Politics of Automation | Bryant William Sculos

Analysis | August 2nd, 2018

While it would be easy to exaggerate the significance of any meme shared on social media, it is widely acknowledged that memes are inherently limited and simplistic. But their value in conveying important political messages is also clear-especially through sarcasm and irony. One need only spend a few seconds on social media to see the creative energy that people put into making and sharing these often-captioned images across various digital platforms. With that said, I came across this meme below (shared in a number of Facebook groups), and it seems like a useful starting point for a discussion about its central claims regarding political-economic change and the overall goals of such change. The meme's central argument (insofar as we can say a meme has an argument) is that consumers should not use the increasingly prevalent self-checkout lines at grocery stores, because the more they are used the fewer people the company will hire to work as cashiers and baggers. If consumers make the ostensibly simple choice to not use these lines and instead use the lines with human cashiers, grocery stores will not only stop installing these automated checkout lines and will even remove the ones they have already put in place-hiring more cashiers to work the in-person lanes that would be needed to service the customers once the automated systems are replaced.

Read More

When Fellow Workers Can No Longer Find Work: A Talk with the Long-Term Unemployed | Devon Bowers

Interview | June 7th, 2018

The entire time I have been unemployed, I have not remained idle. I have labored. Intensely. I have: raised my children, grown gardens in my backyard in a step towards self-sufficiency, I have worked my family member's land and houses. I have done handiwork in my own home. I have constructed things. I have educated people, adults and children on a multitude of different issues. While on CalWorks, I have gone to college, increasing my own knowledge, and working towards my goal of becoming an educator; a history teacher to be specific. I have volunteered with countless organizations, including Western Service Workers Association (WSWA), which is a mutual aid organization and a "para-union", or a union for non-unionized workers, like IHSS workers or farmworkers. I am currently a coordinator for their food procurement program, which entails me going to different grocery markets and taking donations for our food bank, so that it may be fully stocked and ready to help other families and individuals in need. I have become an organizer for the Socialist Party USA (SPUSA).

Read More

The Reds in the Hills: An Anarcho-Syndicalist Interpretation of the Contemporary West Virginia Teachers' Strike | Michael Mochaidean

Analysis | February 27th, 2018

The contemporary West Virginia teachers' strike has both the material and organizing conditions that make an anarcho-syndicalist system possible. First, West Virginia's economic devastation is a result of what has been called the "resource curse" or the "paradox of plenty" - wherein regions have an abundance of natural resources that can spur larger economic growth in various sectors, yet tend to become stagnant economically - and what Immanuel Wallerstein would deem the "Periphery status" within world-systems theory. According to Wallerstein, periphery states lack economic diversity, are semi-industrialized but only insofar as they provide products to core states, become targets for multinational corporate investment in extracting surplus labor or resources, and have high a pool of labor that is disproportionately poor and lacking in education.

Read More

Retail Work and Customer Relations: An Interview | Devon Bowers

Interview | February 22nd, 2018

I had long been fascinated by the reactions some customers would have when told they couldn't have a refund, even though I remained calm and explained the store policy very clearly. This led to me deciding to explore this when I went back to university to study a degree in Psychology. I interviewed both customers and my colleagues at the store I was working inat the time. I compared their responses, and discovered something rather interesting. I saw that both the customers and sales assistants had a 'them and us' mentality. The customers saw the assistants not as individuals, but as faceless representatives of the company, and the assistants saw each customer as just one of many people they would serve that day.

Read More

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and Society: An Interview | Brenan Daniels

Interview | December 21st, 2017

I cannot say why it is STEM that is valued over the liberal arts. Perhaps the roles would be shifted if there were more STEM graduates than liberal arts graduates, but valuing one over the other when both are useful in different ways doesn't make a lot of sense to me. The working poor have always been shamed and blamed for the failings of capitalism, this is not a new thing, though the rhetoric changes to fit the times. Lack of education can no longer be used as an excuse for why so many hard working people live in poverty, as so many of those in poverty have an education now.

Read More

What Is the Working Class? | Kevin Van Meter

Analysis | November 2nd, 2017

"The working class," Glaberman and Faber suggest, "struggles against capitalism because its objective conditions of life force it to." Since capitalism requires that individuals work for wages or access income through state or familial sources (partners and children access income indirectly through the wage earner), the working class must struggle against capitalism to obtain resources beyond its initial, meager wage. Class struggle emerges directly from the point of production of commodities, be it widgets or labor power, and in the battles around the length and intensity of the workday. But what does the working class confront?

Read More

Women Workers Versus Intersectional Exploitation: Striving for Working-Class Feminism | Tatiana Cozzarelli

Analysis | September 1st, 2017

Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi, an Indian American, is the CEO of PepsiCo, the second largest food and beverage business in the world. It produces products such as Pepsi, Lay's, Quaker, Dorito, Starbuck's Ready-to-Drink, 7UP, Cheetos, Aquafina, Mountain Dew, Gatorade and Tropicana. In 2016, it made $62.8 billion in sales, had a market value of $159.4 billion, and employed an estimated 264,000 workers. It is no wonder that as CEO of such an important global corporation, Nooyi was ranked among the world's most powerful women more than once.

Read More

The Nurses' Union That Made Medicine Sick: How the Oligarchs Hypnotized Labor Leaders to Betray Working-Class Communities of Color | Jon Jeter

Analysis | June 29th, 2017

Opened in 1889, O'Connor Hospital was the first in the city of San Jose, and the second in California to be chartered and managed by the Daughters of Charity, a 400-year-old Catholic mission founded by St. Vincent de Paul. Its benefactor, Judge Myles P. O'Connor, made his fortune in mining and he and his wife, Amanda, were two of Silicon Valley's first philanthropists. They had originally planned to open an old-age home and an orphanage, but the local Archbishop convinced the couple that the needs of what would grow to become the state's third most populous city were far too prolific to address only that which vexed the very young, and the very old.

Read More

Race, Solidarity, and the American Working Class | Edward Carson

Analysis | June 22nd, 2017

The search for solidarity has escaped white, black, and brown working class people, in part, due to white people's historical reluctance to embrace shared experiences that cross racial boundaries. Because of recent political news, mass rallies by Black Lives Matter, and the growing concerns about the economic gap, I aim to resurrect past and present conversations about the "working class." As we know, it is not monolithic. In order to confront working class issues, society must mend the color line through class, which is complex, as the American race question is the real problem.

Read More

What's Wrong With the "Right to Work": A Marxist Critique | J. Richard Marra

Analysis | May 10th, 2017

At this writing, 28 US states have instituted "Right to Work" laws (RTWLs). These laws prevent labor unions from excluding non-union workers from receiving improved wages and benefits gained through union negotiations with employers, as well as worker-empowering services such as grievance assistance. These laws also bar unions from requiring non-union employees to pay a fee to unions to offset the costs of union work and services. This legislation extends established Federal law that protects a worker's right not to join a union, and the Taft-Hartley Act, which requires that unions exclusively represent all employees regardless of union membership status.

Read More

Deconstructing Hierarchies: On the Paradox of Contrived Leadership and Arbitrary Positions of Power | Colin Jenkins

Theory | January 12th, 2017

Bosses don't grow on trees. They don't magically appear at your job. They aren't born into their roles. They are created. They are manufactured to fulfill arbitrary positions of power within organizational hierarchies. They possess no natural or learned talents, and they are not tried and tested through any type of meritocratic system. Rather, they gravitate to these positions of authority by consciously exhibiting attributes that make them both controllable and controlling - being punctual, highly conformist, placing a premium on appearance, knowing how to talk sternly without saying much of anything, blessed with the ability to bullshit.

Read More

To Escape Trump's America, We Need to Bring the Militant Labor Tactics of 1946 Back to the Future | Anonymous member of the IWW

Analysis | November 23rd, 2016

The last general strike in the US was in Oakland in 1946. That year there were 6 city-wide general strikes, plus nationwide strikes in steel, coal, and rail transport. More than 5 million workers struck in the biggest strike wave of US history. So what happened? Why haven't we ever gone out like that again? Congress amended US labor law in 1947, adding massive penalties for the very tactics that had allowed strikes to spread and be successful - and the business unions accepted the new laws. In fact, they even went beyond them by voluntarily adding "no-strike clauses" to every union contract for the last 70 years, and agreeing that when they do strike in between contracts it will only be for their own wages and working conditions, not to support anybody else or to apply pressure about things happening in the broader society.

Read More

The Bosses' Utopia: Dystopia and the American Company Town | Nicholas Partyka

Analysis | May 20th, 2016

At many points in American history wealthy capitalists saw it as beneficial to construct planned communities for their workers. These ran the gamut from unsanitary ramshackle slums and ghettoes with little planning or services, to highly elaborate planned communities designed according to the proprietors' ideology of choice, in which even small details were prescribed and regimented. In some of these capitalist-inspired utopian experiments, designed to 'elevate' workers, one can see clear examples of many dystopian themes manifested in real-life. Looking at the experience of company towns one readily discerns significant dystopian elements, e.g. some rather reminiscent of George Orwell's now famous Big Brother. The high-handed, obtrusive, and moralistic scrutiny of private life; the regimentation of work and social life; the uniformity of living standards; strictly imposed and enforced moral codes, are all dystopian elements one can find in the work of the most well-known dystopian writers, e.g. Orwell, Huxley, and Zamyatin.

Read More

Americans Don't Miss Manufacturing - They Miss Unions | Ben Casselman

Commentary | May 20th, 2016

A new report this week from the Labor Center at the University of California, Berkeley, found that a third of production workers - non-managers working on factory floors and in related occupations - earn so little that their families receive some form of public assistance such as food stamps or the Earned Income Tax Credit. Many of those workers are temps, who account for a growing share of factory employment. The median wage for a manufacturing production worker, according to separate data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, was $16.14 an hour in 2015, below the $17.40 an hour for all workers.

Read More

Revolutionary Shop Stewards and Workers Councils in the German Revolution | Kevin E. Van Meter

Book Review | April 27th, 2016

If Ralf Hoffrogge were writing within an American context rather than a German one, he would be situated between two important developments in the United States. A new cohort of social movement historians is addressing the gaps in anarchist, anti-authoritarian, and left-communist historiography. Neighboring this is a resurgence of interest in workers' councils historically and in the contemporary period. With the recent translation and subsequent publication of Working-Class Politics in the German Revolution: Richard M üller, the Revolutionary Shop Stewards and the Origins of the Council Movement in two editions, Hoffrogge enters this discourse with a extremely detailed political biography of a nearly unknown militant whose finest years coincided with the German Revolution and workers' council movement of 1918. Communists of various stripes have laid claim to Rosa Luxemburg and anarchists to Gustav Landauer, both murdered as the revolution was suppressed with the latter yelling "to think you are human" as he was stomped to death. Council communists and autonomists have been gifted Richard Müller, who was forgotten in part because he survived.

Read More

Workers Against Work: Doing What You Hate | Tom Regel

Commentary | March 16th, 2016

If to grow up and get a life means to enter into the professional working world and, in many instances, climb the career ladder, then what's in it for those who don't intend on growing up on those conditions alone, for those who maintain little or no coherent relationship with present modes of existing, who reject the future and all its currently miserable projections? To be anti-work isn't necessarily to be for laziness (although it has an investment stake in that utopia); it is rather to flatly reject the idiotic premise of progress, futurity, individual freedom, fulfillment and success, as it is currently projected through the insular prism of competitive, atomized and alienated wage labour, and to be opposed to the historical norms and prescribed patterns of adulthood that are reinforced and reproduced by a positive work ethic and the world of work in general.

Read More

Getting Beyond the Goods: Direct or Indirect Action in the American Union Movement | Dennis Gravey

Analysis | February 15th, 2016

It is very possible that in the next few years millions of American workers could win significant wage increases through minimum wage legislation, and do so without militant strikes or building their capacity for shop-floor direct action. For those of us fighting for significant wage increases this is great news, but for those of us fighting for an overthrow of capitalism, this should be very worrisome. Central to this tension is a strategic question, namely, Shall unionists prioritize direct or indirect action? If we aim for revolution, we must choose the former?

Read More

The Future of Work: The Rise and Fall of the Job | Bethany Moreton

Commentary | October 29th, 2015

Since 2000, rising American productivity has become de-coupled from job growth: Despite sizzling profits and the ever-receding horizon of a brighter future for all-just on the other side of endless "disruption"-the celebrity industries of Silicon Valley and Wall Street are hollowing out middle-class jobs. When anything at all is filling the void, too often it is the cruelly misnamed sharing economy or hourly work for minimum wage, both greased with record levels of household debt. After a century of insisting that the secure, benefits-laden job was the frictionless meritocratic means of rewarding society's truly valuable work and workers, today we find that half the remaining jobs are in danger of being automated out of existence.

Read More

Capitalism, Exploitation, and Degradation | Dr. Nicholas Partyka

Analysis | October 8th, 2015

Our main question here will be, Is there morally bad exploitation in capitalist employment relationships? To begin I will examine Ruth Sample's excellent account of moral exploitation, and contrasting it at points with the earlier view of Alan Wertheimer. The subtitle of Sample's book offers us an interesting way to approach the explication of her view, and so I will in turn address the questions, What is exploitation, and Why is it wrong? Briefly, Sample's view is that exploitation involves taking advantage for private gain of vulnerability in another, or ignoring their needs in the transaction. This kind of behavior is morally wrong, as Sample suggests, because it fails to show respect for the exploited party.

Read More

A New Lost Generation: Student Loans, Wage Slavery, and Debt Peonage | Dr. Nicholas Partyka

Analysis | July 24th, 2015

In literature, the term "lost generation" refers to a cohort of authors whose work defines the post-First World War era. This group includes literary notables like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, among others. According to the dominant understanding, what made this group of expatriate writers, centered in Paris, 'lost' was not a sense of geographic dislocation, but rather one of spiritual or moral dislocation. Their experiences in or with the war lead them to question, even to abandon the systems of values that they had held prior to the war. This kind of sentiment, and experience, was not uncommon in society at large. This is likely part of why these authors' work achieved such prominence in this period. Many people left lost in this era, even before the onset of the Great Depression.

Read More

Work Matters! Workers Matter! Unions Matter! | Dr. Nicholas Partyka

Analysis | June 16th, 2015

Low-wage workers bear the costs of our convenience in similar ways in many different industries. From hotel maids, to home cleaning services, to fast-food and restaurant workers, to warehouse workers, all bear the costs of our standard of living, by having theirs degraded. Many of us, myself included, are keen on online shopping because of its convenience. Like many others, I buy many things from, and mostly because I can find them cheaper there. Behind the nice packages we receive in the mail are the warehouse workers, who suffer physically demanding work, long hours, and low pay so that we can get cheaper products delivered right to our doorstep.

Read More

'Fight for 15' Inspires Bold Demands | Sonia Singh

Commentary | April 22nd, 2015

As thousands of low-wage workers prepare to rally and strike on April 15, demanding $15 an hour and a union, their high-profile mobilization has already inspired workers in a range of industries far beyond fast food. From school support staff to UPS part-timers, Fight for 15 is raising the confidence of unions to put bold demands on the bargaining table for their own low-wage members-and to back up those demands with community action. The surge in low-wage worker organizing is also fueling campaigns to boost the minimum wage, spreading the momentum for $15 to new cities, including a wave of action across Canada.

Read More

On the Meaning of "Middle Class" & the State of the Middle Class | Dr. Nicholas Partyka

Analysis | March 24th, 2015

When politicians talk, one of the recurring themes about which they spew platitudes is the economy. It would be the subject of another essay to unpack what is meant by "the economy" when politicians and other capitalist elements use that term. This aside, in discussing the economy there is a phrase that politicians use with such alacrity that it has become trite. This phrase is, "middle class". Politicians, pundits, and social commentators deploy this term in many contexts, but almost always appealing to its ubiquity of membership, critical role in democracy, and moral virtue in their speeches. These constant references to the middle class in the popular political discourse have rendered this term impenetrably vague. If we listen to politicians then one would be led to believe that most Americans are members of this middle class, whose health and prosperity the politicians never tire of proclaiming as their highest priority. Speeches are one thing, reality another. Let us interrogate this concept of the "middle class", and see what to make of this notion that plays such a prominent role in American political discourse on the economy.

Read More

The Problem of the Backward-Bending Supply Curve of Labour | Dr. Nicholas Partyka

Analysis | February 12th, 2015

The backward bending supply curve of labour is a phenomenon well known to economists. This curve models a situation where workers choose to substitute leisure time for work time, ie. wages, thus reducing the pool of labour available. Let us think through this "problem", and consider in what sense, and for whom, it is problematic. Why indeed should there not exist a backward bending supply curve for labour, especially if capitalism allows for workers to truly improve their station in life? If workers are empowered, and achieve a certain level of material independence, and can thus make their own decisions about how to allocate their time, they will strike a balance between consumption of leisure time and labour time. The problem is that the balance of these that is optimal for the worker will likely be sub-optimal for capitalists, in that it reduces the supply of wage-labour for sale on the market. A glut of supply of labour-power on the market is what enables the capitalist to control bargaining with workers, and thus also to control the product of labour. Control over workers' labour, and the product of that labour is the foundation of capitalists' surpluses.

Read More

The Way We Work Matters for Democracy | Dr. Nicholas Partyka

Analysis | January 15th, 2015

The way we work matters for democracy. Or, more technically, the nature of the labour-process under capitalism matters for democracy. This is because the way we work affects who we are, how we see the world, and how we make decisions in it. Work transforms those who labour. Human capacities, or talents, are largely learned. If they are practiced they develop and grow, if not they wither and atrophy. Human beings never stop learning. The workplace is a site of learning. Leaving the formal school grounds does not mean one stops learning. One other way to look at learning is training. Education, especially in philosophy, history, and science, is training in how to see the world, how to think about it critically and independently.

Read More

Zombie Apocalypse and the Politics of Artificial Scarcity | Colin Jenkins

Commentary | December 19th, 2014

Dystopian narratives have long been an alluring and thought-provoking form of entertainment, especially for those who take an interest in studying social and political structures. From classics like Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World to the current hit, The Hunger Games, these stories play on our fears while simultaneously serving as warning signs for the future. Their attractiveness within American society is not surprising. Our lives are driven by fear. Fear leads us to spend and consume; fear leads us to withdraw from our communities; and fear leads us to apathy regarding our own social and political processes.

Read More

Adjuncts Organize: An Interview with St. Rose (NY) Professor, Bradley Russell | Daniel J. Kelly

Interview | November 19th, 2014

In late September, 2014, something happened at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY that hasn't happened often enough in recent years. Eighty percent of the approximately 300 adjunct professors at the private, liberal arts college turned out to vote to unionize. When the results were tallied the professors had voted by a margin of 175 to 61 to join Local 200 United of the Service Employees International Union. Local 200 is part of S.E.I.U's Adjunct Action, a nationwide project to organize adjunct professors. As many of our readers will know, the adjunct professor phenomenon is just another neoliberal strategy to disempower the workforce. By a policy of no benefits, no job security, and no raises the employing class atomizes another subset of workers. In other words, if they can fool them into thinking they're independent contractors they will be less inclined to act collectively to secure power in the workplace. This has been part of the neoliberal agenda for nearly forty years and for much of that time that agenda has worked, but not at the College of Saint Rose in 2014.

Read More

Why Consensus Decision-making Won't Work for Grassroots Unionism | Tom Wetzel

Commentary | November 5th, 2014

Syndicalists have always supported a form of direct democracy based on majority rule. Like most American unions, the Industrial Workers of the World officially endorses Robert's Rules of Order - although some of their smaller branches use a stripped down version called Rusty's Rules.[1] The point to taking a vote is that it enables an organized group to come to a decision that expresses the collective will, even when there is some disagreement. This doesn't mean that all decisions are made by voting. In grassroots organizations based on majority decision-making, it often happens that most decisions are made without taking any vote - especially in smaller meetings. That's because people are often able to come to agreement just by discussing the issue or proposal.

Read More

Rise of the Scab Army: The Historical Roots of Modern Police as "Paddy Rollers" and Strikebreakers | Joshua Deeds

History | October 7th, 2014

The Police are a notorious institution due to their function in society. They have a second bill of rights that others don't, afforded by their "Union" - a term that should be used loosely in regards to Police, as they often play the State's hand in strike-breaking. In this function, they are an army of scabs. They regularly abrogate others' rights and avoid accountability on the basis of taking a life daily. In this regard, the Left and Right have different critiques of Police in society and often meet in the middle; however, the Left has historical context behind its critique. In the Libertarian Capitalist ideology, the function of Police would be privatized, and private security forces or a paramilitary organizations, such as Blackwater now Academi, would fill the void.

Read More

Who Stole the Four-Hour Workday? | Nathan Schneider

Commentary | August 6th, 2014

Alex is a busy man. The 36-year-old husband and father of three commutes each day to his full-time job at a large telecom company in Denver, the city he moved to from his native Peru in 2003. At night, he has classes or homework for the bachelor's in social science he is pursuing at a nearby university. With or without an alarm, he wakes up at 5 AM every day, and it's only then, after eating breakfast and glancing at the newspaper, that he has a chance to serve in his capacity as the sole US organizer and webmaster of the Global Campaign for the 4 Hour Work-Day. "I've been trying to contact other organizations," he says, "though, ironically, I don't have time." But Alex has big plans. By the end of the decade he envisions "a really crazy movement" with chapters around the world orchestrating the requisite work stoppage.

Read More

Bullshit Jobs, the Caring Classes, and the Future of Labor: An Interview with David Graeber | Thomas Frank

Interview | June 3rd, 2014

This sort of thing threw a lot of people in positions of power into a kind of moral panic. There were think-tanks set up to examine what to do-basically, how to maintain social control-in a society where more and more traditional forms of labor would soon be obsolete. A lot of the complaints you see in Alvin Toffler and similar figures in the early '70s-that rapid technological advance was throwing the social order into chaos-had to do with those anxieties: too much leisure had created the counter-culture and youth movements, what was going to happen when things got even more relaxed? It's probably no coincidence that it was around that time that things began to turn around, both in the direction of technological research, away from automation and into information, medical, and military technologies (basically, technologies of social control), and also in the direction of market reforms that would send us back towards less secure employment, longer hours, greater work discipline.

Read More