Author: Charles Lenchner

From the Editorial Team

We write this on the day following Donald Trump’s electoral triumph.  That stunning victory raises more questions than it answers.  To what degree is the election outcome attributable to an anxious and enraged white working class that feels by turns neglected, misunderstood and insulted by mainstream and progressive organizations and pundits? And how should labor and progressive activists understand and respond to the racism the campaign exposed? What did the 2016 election tell us about the wisdom and viability of the Obama coalition, which depends on demographic changes presumed to be advantageous, rather than on birthing a multi-racial working-class?  Did the AFL-CIO impact the election, particularly in the rust belt?  We’ll take up these and related concerns in subsequent issues of New Labor Forum.

One thing seems clear, however. Addressing any of these concerns will take place outside the corridors of power. The Sanders campaign was an important overture in that direction. Our “On the Contrary” features a debate about whether the Sanders primary campaign was a lost opportunity for the labor movement. This debate is joined by Larry Cohen, ex-president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), and Randi Weingarten with Leo Casey of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)  Our lead article by Phil Thompson examines the prospects for building on an already active “urban populism” which has established a foothold in a healthy number of American cities.  Thompson raises the challenges implicit in maintaining and strengthening Obama-type coalitions, comprised of working-class blacks and Latinos and largely white millennials that constitute core metropolitan constituencies.  Urban displacement is one issue that must be addressed if this new social chemistry is to work.  Karen Chapple writes about how cities might develop in the interests of all instead of at the expense of their working classes.

Those working classes would probably be making a mistake to rely on anyone but themselves in the months and years ahead.  One encouraging sign of that resourcefulness was the Verizon strike of last summer.  Dan DiMaggio provides an anatomy of that victory, explores the multiple forces at play from the political as well as from the industrial arena, and poses the dilemma unions like the CWA face in dealing with frontier changes in technology and industrial organization.  Farm work, not known for recent technological innovation, presents another challenge altogether, given the fact that it remains beyond the reach of most labor laws and protections.  Julie C. Keller, Margaret Gray, and Jill Lindsay Harrison describe the efforts of immigrant dairy workers laboring at some of the dirtiest, most hazardous jobs to win some protection and justice from their employers.  Mariya Strauss devotes her “Roots of Rebellion” column to another sub-sector of the food production sector, examining organizing efforts by seafood workers in New Orleans.

Widening the orbit of working-class influence is, in part, a function of political imagination.  Once the labor movement embraced the cause of trust-busting which excited the passions of millions not necessarily part of the labor movement.  Those days are long gone, but Carl T. Bogus argues they should not be.  He lays out the reasons why anti-trust prosecutions have declined, how working people nonetheless pay a heavy price when mergers and acquisitions are allowed to proceed without government opposition, and why the labor movement should take up that forgotten cause.  Another way to broaden the reach of the progressive movement would be to champion the cause of wounded and traumatized veterans who are, by and large, drawn from the country’s working classes.  Ann Jones illuminates how major business interests, including the Koch brothers, are whittling away at government health care for veterans in an effort to buoy up their bottom lines. In “Organized Money” Max Fraser devotes his column to exposing another covert way major financial players are trying to gut or do an end-run around the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

One way not to win friends and influence people is on display within the labor movement.  On the critical issue of environmental regulation and transformation–a cause that mobilizes many millions far removed from the ranks of organized labor–the movement is deeply divided, one faction siding with those most guilty of despoiling the earth. Sean Sweeney analyzes this split in his “Earth to Labor” column.  A more welcome if small sign of the opposite appears in Sarah Jaffe’s “Under the Radar” reporting on a less well-known protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The “black box” of the workplace is a phrase bearing many meanings.  It connotes tyranny, for example, as it does in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.  Paul Christensen sheds some desperately needed light into that hidden world.  His essay is a primer for all those who wonder what’s happening to the Russian working class and its sporadic efforts to break out of that black box.  Here at home the phrase also signals the closed off word of the prison industrial complex.  There prisoners first of all, but then too those charged with their day to day imprisonment, face a vexing dilemma.  Prisoners confront horrific conditions and often horrific treatment by prison guards.  Guards deal with danger and an overhang of job insecurity as talk of prison closures grows.  Austin McCoy wrestles with these conflicts and how they might be resolved.

Our Books and the Arts section begins with a review by Zora Ahmed of a closely related subject, namely the endemic racism of the criminal justice system in Cook County, Chicago: Crook County: Racism and Injustice in America’s Largest Criminal Court.  Echoing the theme of financial trickery in “Beg, Borrow, or Steal”,” Andrew Elrod reviews two books about the entanglement of people by merchants of debt, Between Debt and the Devil: Money, Credit, and Fixing Global Finance, and How the Other Half Banks: Exclusion, Exploitation, and the Threat to Democracy .Thinking about the future life of progressivism in the Clinton years and beyond is a book of essays called The Future We Want: Radical Ideas for the New Century, reviewed here by Kate Aronoff.  Whatever else that future will entail it must rest on grassroots organizing, so we have included a review by Steve Early of two books that bear on that experience: The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and The Rise of a New Justice Movement, and America’s Social Arsonist: Fred Ross and Grassroots Organizing in the Twentieth Century.  And echoing the urban theme of this issue’s cover, we feature Li-Young Lee’s poem, The City in which I Love You, both a paean to and lament about “storied, buttressed, scavenged, policed city I call home, in which I am a guest.”

Fall 2016

Volume 25  Issue 3



From the Editorial Team

Under the Radar
By Sarah Jaffe
Unreported and under-reported news and views that matter.

On the Contrary

The “Good Work Code”: Greed-Washing the On-Demand Economy?
By Jay Youngdahl

New Business Models Demand New Forms of Worker Organizing
By Ai-jen Poo and Palak Shah

Organizing in a Brave New World 
By Stephen Lerner and Saqib Bhatti
What can labor and its potential allies do to rescue the political economy from the super-rich?

Electoral Shock: Analyzing the Bern

Is Class Warfare Back? The Sanders Phenomenon and Life after Neoliberal Capitalism 
By Bob Master
What will it take to transform the Sanders campaign into a social movement?

The New Political Arithmetic: Who Voted for Bernie, Who Voted for Hillary, and Why
By Ted Fertik
Which primary voting patterns offer essential lessons for progressive political activists?

Europe on the Precipice: The Crisis of the Neoliberal Order and the Ascent of Right-Wing Populism
By Walter Baier
What does the rise of the European radical right indicate about dilemmas confronting global capitalism?

Microworkers of the Gig Economy: Separate and Precarious
By Juliet Webster
Is it possible for high-tech pieceworkers workers to overcome their isolation to defend themselves?

Rising Inequality and Its Discontents in China 
By Kevin Lin
As wealth and income gaps widen, Chinese workers invent new ways to challenge employers and the state.

Labor Wars

Two Reasons Why Most Unions Don’t Do Large-Scale Organizing
By Shaun Richman

New Organizing in a New Economy
By Jonathan Rosenblum

Time to Set New Priorities? 
By José La Luz

Put Workers Back at the Center of Organizing 
By Jane McAlevey

Shaun Richman Responds
By Shaun Richman

Employment or Income Guarantees: Which Would Do the Better Job? 
By Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg
It’s time to reconsider bold policy solutions to poverty and unemployment.

Earth to Labor: Dispatches from the Climate Battleground 

Corporations Call for “Net Zero” Emissions: Do They Know How to Get There? 
By Sean Sweeney

Roots of Rebellion: A Guide to Insurgencies from Coast to Coast 

The Fight for $15 Goes to College 
By Mariya Strauss

Organized Money: What Is Corporate America Thinking?

Hillary Clinton and the Jailhouse Gang
By Max Fraser

Books and the Arts

Visions of Utopia
Communal Luxury: The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune
By Kristin Ross
The Port Huron Statement: Sources and Legacies of the New Left’s
Founding Manifesto
Edited By Richard Flacks and Nelson Lichtenstein
The Occupiers: The Making of the 99 Percent Movement
By Michael A. Gould-Wartofsky
Reviewed by Tim Barker

Borderlands of Work
Jornalero: Being a Day Laborer in the USA
By Juan Thomas Ordóñez
On the Line: Slaughterhouse Lives and the Making of the New South
By Vanesa Ribas
Reviewed by Allyson P. Brantley

Afterlives of the American Dream 
Cut Loose: Jobless and Hopeless in an Unfair Economy
By Victor Tan Chen
Exit Zero: An Industrial Family Story
Produced and written by Christine Walley and Chris Boebel
Reviewed by Molly Cunningham

Nightmare on Main Street
The Big Short
Directed by Adam MacKay
99 Homes
Directed by Ramin Bahrani
Reviewed by Jennifer Taub

Out of the Mainstream: Books and Films You May Have Missed
By Matt Witt


The Family Solid
By Gary Jackson

Upon Seeing Spider-Man on My Way to Work
By Gary Jackson

By Gary Jackson

Letter to the Editors

Left Wing of The Possible; Nina Turner Excerpt


Amid a volatile and unorthodox presidential season, Senator Bernie Sanders’ supporters have denounced the outsized political and economic power of the corporate elite, and brought socialism back into consideration, especially among young voters. While this platform energized a broad cross-section of the country, it struggled to earn the broader support – especially among African Americans, Latinos, and organized labor – that an enduring movement would require. What will now be required to maintain the momentum and build a movement of the 99 percent? How do supporters build on the progressive message carried through the Sanders Campaign? What are the new possibilities and challenges? What comes next?

Watch Labor Leaders Speak at the DNC

Last week, several labor leaders addressed the 2016 Democratic National Convention.  The New Labor Forum has compiled the speeches from Richard Trumka (AFL-CIO), Mary Kay Henry (SEIU), Henrietta Ivey (Fight for 15) and Beth Mathias.

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, urged union members across the country to support Hillary Clinton:

Mary Kay Henry
, President of SEIU, spoke about the need for a President who will support working families:

Henrietta Ivey, a leader in the Fight for 15 movement, gave a powerful testimony about how important raising the minimum wage is to families across America who are trying to survive:

Beth Mathias, a factory worker, spoke about the struggles facing American workers and the pressures she has faced trying to support her family on minimum wage:


Videos: Update on #Promesa: the Puerto Rico Debt Crisis

Video 1 and 2 from: BRAVE NEW FILMS

Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films are at the forefront of the fight to create a just America. Using new media and internet video campaigns, Brave New Films has created a quick-strike capability that informs the public, challenges corporate media with the truth, and motivates people to take action on social issues nationwide. Brave New Films’ investigative films have scrutinized the impact of U.S. drone strikes; the prosecution if whistleblowers; and Wal Mart’s corporate practices.



Video #3 from: The Laura Flanders Show

The People’s Summit, June 17-19, 2016, in Chicago

This coming weekend some 3000 union members, progressives and outright socialists will be gathering in Chicago for The People’s Summit. Envisioned as a way to reflect on the impact of the Bernie Sanders campaign while strategizing for the future, it stands out as the first opportunity for the diverse forces who worked together with or for the Sanders campaign to showcase a collective identity outside their preference for a Presidential candidate.

The Summit takes place after the last primary, but before the DNC takes place in Philadelphia. Normally, this would be when a candidate with fewer pledged delegates concedes the race and ends their campaign. But this isn’t a normal election year; Sanders is finding a way between accepting the reality that Clinton is going to be the nominee, with the political opportunities presented by a convention in which he has a significant minority.

That means moving away from the competition for votes, and towards strategies around DNC rules, platform planks, and for all we know, policy priorities for the next administration, a role in the general election, and positions for some of his top staff in Clinton’s campaign. In recent weeks Sanders’ surrogate Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has launched a petition to eliminate superdelegates, other top surrogates were named as members of the DNC Platform Draft committee, and the Bernie grassroots – including elected delegates – are discussing how to carry out the political revolution given the constraints of the Democratic Party and a likely Clinton administration.

The event is backed by National Nurses United together with key allies, mostly from the left – the kind of left that doesn’t usually enjoy the national spotlight that the Bernie campaign has provided. They’ll be listening to movement celebrities, like Rev. William Barbour from Moral Mondays, CNN’s Van Jones, and climate activist and author Naomi Klein. But the luminaries will be vastly outnumbered by activists and organizers from grassroots organizations talking about their past victories, coalition building successes, and prospects for the future.

The People’s Summit won’t be the largest gathering of progressives this summer. But it’s the first to showcase the emerging alliance of forces that have recently shown their mettle as a force to the left of the ‘mainstream’ Democratic Party left. Whatever happens in Chicago, it’s likely that this coalition is here to stay.

For more information about The People’s Summit, visit Livestream information for many of the presentations will be available on site in real time.

The author is, a co-founder of People for Bernie and participant in the Summit.

New Labor Forum Highlights: May 31st, 2016

In this week’s newsletter, we begin by taking a closer look at workers in the energy industries. New Labor Forum columnist Sean Sweeney examines the deep environmental rift in the U.S. labor movement, with the building trades promoting continued coal, oil, and gas extraction and transport workers, nurses, service employees, and a growing number of other unions pushing to end our dependence on fossil fuels. However, Sweeney points to signs that many members and leaders in the Trades appear uncomfortable playing the role of attack dog for fossil fuel interests. Although not imminent, a realignment for  “energy democracy” and environmental sustainability may be possible.

Environmental activists and labor leaders around the globe will be keeping a close eye on  Canada’s National Democratic Party (NDP) after its recent convention resulted in the introduction of the Leap Manifesto and its “ambitious vision for a nobody’s-backyard approach on pipelines.” We’ve gathered a few articles and perspectives for you to learn more about what’s brewing in Alberta, home to the Tar Sands and location of the NDP convention.

1.        Contested Futures: Labor After Keystone XL by Sean Sweeney

2.       The Leap Manifesto 

3.       VIDEO: Avi Lewis talks about The Leap Manifesto

4.       The Leap Manifesto, and where the NDP will land by Jason Markusoff, (MacLean’s)


Contested Futures: Labor After Keystone XL
By Sean Sweeney

The extraordinary story of the political battle over the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline that began in the summer of 2011 came to an end when President Obama finally rejected the project on November 6, 2015. KXL could be a precursor to a more protracted and serious union leadership-level dispute in the years ahead. Referring to the split in labor over KXL, the pro-pipeline president of Laborers’ International union of North America (LiUNA) Terry O’Sullivan said in early 2013, “That divide is as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon. We’re repulsed by some of our supposed brothers and sisters lining up with job killers like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council to destroy the lives of working men and women.” Can future KXL-like fights be avoided?  Yes, but it will require that certain unions rethink their relationship to coal, oil, and gas industry groups and take the lead in driving a different conversation about ‘extractionism,’ energy, and climate change.

Read the full article


The Leap Manifesto

We start from the premise that Canada is facing the deepest crisis in recent memory.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has acknowledged shocking details about the violence of Canada’s near past. Deepening poverty and inequality are a scar on the country’s present. And Canada’s record on climate change is a crime against humanity’s future.

These facts are all the more jarring because they depart so dramatically from our stated values: respect for Indigenous rights, internationalism, human rights, diversity, and environmental stewardship.

We could live in a country powered entirely by renewable energy, woven together by accessible public transit, in which the jobs and opportunities of this transition are designed to systematically eliminate racial and gender inequality. Caring for one another and caring for the planet could be the economy’s fastest growing sectors. Many more people could have higher wage jobs with fewer work hours, leaving us ample time to enjoy our loved ones and flourish in our communities.

Read the full manifesto here


VIDEO: Avi Lewis talks The Leap Manifesto

avi lewis screenshotAvi Lewis tells us how the Leap Manifesto came to be and how this “movement of movements” is inspiring activists around the world.

Avi Lewis is a Canadian documentary filmmaker, former host of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation current-affairs programs CounterSpin and On the Map and one of the co-authors of The Leap Manifesto.

Watch the video here


The Leap Manifesto, and where the NDP will land
By Jason Markusoff

Minutes after a decent majority of NDP delegates gave initial embrace to this ambitious vision for a nobody’s-backyard approach on pipelines, a Canada without many free trade deals, and a swift move to a world where “green” jobs replace a lot of what exists now, we saw the first signs of the way those the NDP will be portrayed from the outside for the next two years.

“The NDP just passed the Leap Manifesto,” tweeted Michelle Rempel, a Conservative MP from Calgary. Megan Leslie, the NDP’s former Halifax MP and deputy leader who had just urged passage of the convention resolution on Leap, fired back: “Incorrect. We did not adopt it & it’s not party policy. Agreed to have a democratic discussion about it in our communities.”

Leslie would be correct. Parts of it or the whole shebang could be rejected by NDP riding associations, the party caucus or its executive.

Read the full article

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