Category: Winter 2015


Lie to yourself about this and you will
forever lie about everything.

Everybody already knows everything

so you can
lie to them. That’s what they want.

But lie to yourself, what you will

lose is yourself, Then you
Turn into them.


For each gay kid whose adolescence

was America in the forties or fifties
the primary, the crucial


forever is coming out—
or not. Or not. Or not. Or not. Or not.


Involuted velleities of self-erasure.


Quickly after my parents
died, I came out. Foundational narrative
designed to confer existence.

If I had managed to come out to my
mother, she would have blamed not

me, but herself.

The door through which you were shoved out
into the light

was self-loathing and terror.


Thank you, terror!

You learned early that adults’ genteel
Fantasies about human life

were not, for you, life. You think sex

is a knife
driven into you to teach you that.

The Aureole

(for E)

I stop my hand in midair.
If I touch her there everything about me will be true.
The New World discovered without pick or ax.

I will be what Brenda Jones was stoned for in 1969.
I saw it as a girl but didn’t know I was taking in myself.

My hand remembers, treading the watery room,
Just behind the rose-veiled eyes of memory.

Alone in the yard tucked beneath the hood of her car,
lucky clover all about her fee, green tea-sweet necklace
for her mud-pie crusty work boots.

She fends off their spit & words with silent two-handed
twists & turns of her socket wrench. A hurl of sticks &
stones and only me to whisper for her, from sidewalk far,

break my bones. A grown woman in grease-pocket overalls
inside her own sexy transmission despite the crowding of
hurled red hots. Beneath the hood of her candy-apple Camaro:

souped, shiny, low to the ground.

The stars over the Atlantic are dangling
salt crystals. The room at the Seashell Inn is
$20 a night; special winter off-season rate.
No one else here but us and the night clerk,
five floors below, alone with his cherished
stack of Spiderman. My lips are red snails
in a primal search for every constellation
hiding in the sky of your body. My hand
waits for permission, for my life to agree
to be changed, forever. Can Captain Night
Clerk hear my fingers tambourining you
There on the moon? Won’t he soon climb
The stairs and bam! On the hood of his car?
You are a woman with film reels for eyes.
Years of long talking have brought us to the
land of the body. Our skin is one endless
prayer bead of brown. If my hand ever lands,
I will fly past dreaming Australian Aborigines.
The old claw hammer and monkey wrench
that flew at Brenda Jones will fly across the
yard of ocean at me. A grease rag will be
thrust into my painter’s pants against my
will. I will never be able to wash or peel
any of this away. Before the night is over
someone I do not know will want the keys
to my ’55 silver Thunderbird. He will chase
me down the street. A gaggle of spooked
hens will fly up in my grandmother’s yard,
never to lay another egg, just as I am jump-
ed, kneed, pulled finally to the high ground
of sweet clover.

“The Aureole” from Head Off & Split. Copyright @2011 Nikky Finney. Reprinted by permission of Northwestern University Press.

After the Fall: An Autopsy of the Midterms

Surveying the wreckage of his party’s 2014 election campaign, Howard Dean, on the November 9th Meet the Press, was candid, with such sound bytes as, ““Where the hell is the Democratic party …You got to stand for something if you want to win.” The Republicans’ message was, “We’re not Obama.” What was the Democrats’ message? “Oh well, we really aren’t either.”
Translation: “Get my message; we need a message.”
No matter how hard the Democrats tried to demonize their Republican rivals — they couldn’t.

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Comprehensive Immigration Reform and U.S. Labor Markets: Dilemmas for Progressive Labor

Ordinarily, legislation supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Association, Silicon Valley moguls, and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal is not supported by people who identify with the American left. But such is the case with Comprehensive Immigration Reform. In a complex deal between interest groups that ordinarily oppose each other, CIR was first pushed by the Bush administration.

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Photo credit: Wikimedia

Dreamers Unbound: Immigrant Youth Mobilizing

One of the most important social movements in the United States is the undocumented youth movement (Dreamers). The movement has not been successful in passing the federal DREAM Act. It has, however, worked closely with its allies to rack up an impressive string of local and state-level victories and pressured the Obama administration to pass Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2012. This latter measure provided approximately 553,000 undocumented youths with temporary relief (two years) from deportation.

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“The Sanctity of Private Property”: The Civil Rights Act and the Limitations of American Liberalism

In marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, commenters frequently lamented the contrast between progress toward legal equality and the persistence of economic inequality today. “The decision to pursue purely legal change, and to leave economic relation- ships alone, says much about the intellectual and moral limitations of midcentury liberalism,” wrote journalist Clay Risen.

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Winter 2015

Access FULL IssueNLF Winter 2015 cover JPEG


From the Editorial Team

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

On the Contrary
FREE Why Labor Should Support Class-Based Affirmative Action FREE
By Richard D. Kahlenberg

Race Still Matters: The Continued Need for Race-Conscious Admissions Policies
By Julie J. Park

Schools for Sale
FREE The Charter School Challenge FREE
By Leo Casey
How charter schools and public schools privatize education and imperil our democracy.

FREE Education with a Debt Sentence: For-Profit Colleges as American Dream Crushers and Factories of Debt FREE
By Hannah Appel and Astra Taylor
How for-profit colleges turn dreams into nightmares.

Surveying the Political Landscape
FREE After the Fall: An Autopsy of the Midterms FREE
By Michael Hirsch
Analyzing the political incoherence of the Democratic Party.

Does De Blasio’s Win Represent the Birth of a New Urban Populism?
By J. Phillip Thompson
Is populism in one city possible?

The Marxist Moment
Marxism and Morals Today
By Steven Lukes
Dissecting Marx’s ambivalent approach to morality.

The Civil Rights Act: A Retrospective
FREE “The Sanctity of Private Property”: The Civil Rights Act and the Limitations of American Liberalism FREE
By William P. Jones
Did the Civil Rights Act skirt the issue of economic deprivation?

Powerless at Home, Dangerous Abroad: The Civil Rights Act According to Malcolm X
By Stephen Tuck
Why Malcolm X considered the Civil Rights Act a Trojan Horse.

Immigration Reform vs. Economic Stagnation
FREE Comprehensive Immigration Reform and U.S. Labor Markets: Dilemmas for Progressive Labor FREE
By David Stoll
The immigration reform bill serves business, but would it make things harder for workers?

FREE Dreamers Unbound: Immigrant Youth Mobilizing FREE
By Walter J. Nicholls and Tara Fiorito
Should the Dreamers movement have to prove its middle-class respectability?

Tale from Malawi
By Paula Finn

Malpractice by the Labor Movement: Relinquishing the Fight for Occupational Health and Safety in California
By Garrett Brown
Why a once-robust struggle to safeguard the workplace has grown so anemic.

Economic Prospects
A Progressive Economic Agenda
By Mike Konczal

Organized Money: What Is Corporate America Thinking?
The Bad Math behind Corporate America’s Education Agenda
By Max Fraser

Books and the Arts
The Politics of Piketty
Capital in the Twenty-first Century By Thomas Piketty
Reviewed by Peter Frase

Teachers Unions at a Fork in the Road
Strike for America: Chicago Teachers against Austerity By Micah Uetricht
How to Jump-Start Your Union: Lessons from the Chicago Teachers A Labor Notes Book
Reviewed by Robert Bruno

Social Justice in Agriculture: Perspectives from France and the United States
Labor and the Locavore: The Making of a Comprehensive Food Ethic By Margaret Gray
Food, Farms, & Solidarity: French Farmers Challenge Industrial Agriculture and Genetically Modified Crops By Chaia Heller
Reviewed by Christy Getz

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


Letter to the Editors

The Charter School Challenge

Do charter schools pose an existential threat to public education and teacher unions? One need look no further than post-Katrina New Orleans, widely touted as a national model of education reform, to understand why many observers now answer this question in the affirmative. Today, charter schools enroll more than nine in every ten public school students, a share that continues to grow.

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