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Rethinking the Problem of Alliance

Highlights for April 15th

The gaping income and wealth inequality, increasing constrictions on democratic rights, and perilous ecological unsustainability that are the features of the contemporary U.S. political economy have given rise to a host of theoretical and practical efforts to imagine another way. These efforts were the focus of an important national conference Our Economy! Economic Democracy and System Change held on April 12th at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, publisher of New Labor Forum. How can we transform our economy into a more just and ecologically sustainable system? What current practices and historic precedents offer lessons toward the creation of a participatory democracy? This newsletter provides a video clip of a rousing speech by conference keynote, J. Phillip Thompson, NYC Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives. In his remarks, Thompson discusses the legacy of organized labor’s tragic failure to build a multi-racial working-class movement for economic democracy. On this theme, we also include a New Labor Forum article by Brandon Terry and Jason Lee, who examine current tendencies among the leadership of black social justice organizations and unions that hinder the possibility for this sort of broader movement. We end with a poem by Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Gregory Pardlo, who writes with poignant grace of his childhood as the son of an African American union leader in the cataclysmic PATCO strike of 1981.

Table of Contents

  1. The Origins and Relevance of the Struggle for Economic Democracy in the U.S./ J. Phillip Thompson, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies
  2. Rethinking the Problem of Alliance: Organized Labor and Black Political Life/ Brandon M. Terry and Jason Lee, New Labor Forum
  3. Winter After the Strike/ Gregory Pardlo, Digest

The Origins and Relevance of the Struggle for Economic Democracy in the U.S.

By J. Phillip Thompson/ CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies

“…The prospect that white workers and black people might link up together has long been the number one nightmare scenario for capitalism. That is why we got racial segregation for a hundred years in America after the Civil War, to literally, physically separate blacks and whites so they could not organize together. And for those of you who follow history, segregation was enacted during the populist movement when poor whites and blacks started coming together.…”

Watch the full video here.


Rethinking the Problem of Alliance: Organized Labor and Black Political Life

By Brandon M. Terry and Jason Lee/ New Labor Forum

The enduring problem of the relationship between leading political currents within organized labor, and those prevailing among African-Americans and black advocacy organizations, has once again become a central concern of the left. Unsurprisingly, the chief impetuses for this intensive focus are the seismic shock of Donald Trump’s surreal ascent to the U.S. presidency and the spectacular surge, and subsequent dispersal, of the Black Lives Matter movement. As recriminations fly across entrenched axes of disagreement…

Read the full article here.


Winter After the Strike

By Gregory Pardlo/ Digest

You believe,
if you cast wide enough

your net of want and will, something meaningful
will respond. Perhaps we are the response—

each a cresting echo hesitating, vibrant with the moment
before rippling back.
But you’re steadfast as Odysseus strapped to the mast, as you were
in ’81 when Reagan ordered you back to work. You were President

of the union local you steered with your working-man’s voice,
the voice that ground the Ptolemaic ballet of air traffic to
a temporary stop.

Read the full poem here.


Subscribe to New Labor Forum

Do you subscribe to New Labor Forum, our publication for labor and its allies to test and debate new ideas?  In this new year, consider giving your favorite friends and colleagues a subscription too. Three times a year scholars, journalists, labor leaders and activists explore topics like the global economy’s impact on work and labor; new union organizing and political strategies; labor’s new constituencies and their relationship to organized labor’s traditional institutions; internal union reform and new structural models for the labor movement; alternative economic and social policies; and the role of culture in a new, revitalized labor movement. It is required reading for anyone who is concerned with issues of work, workers, and social change. Subscribe now to get each issue of New Labor Forum.

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