Source: Elizabeth Riordan, University of Iowa Libraries, News, February 12, 2019
Exciting news from University Archivist, David McCartney, about the incredible recordings found in the Eric Morton Civil Rights Papers.
In 1963 and 1964, attorney Bob Zellner recorded a series of interviews with civil rights activists in Mississippi and Alabama. Zellner conducted the interviews on behalf of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in an effort to document the activists’ experiences, which were often under challenging and violent circumstances.
The interviewees participated in the Mississippi Summer Project in 1964, later to be known as Freedom Summer, a drive to register African Americans in the Magnolia State to vote. For decades, attempts by blacks to register at county court houses across the state were met with intimidation, harassment, and even violence. Freedom Summer was an organized response to this situation, with activists from across the U.S. participating, including over 800 college and university students. Among them were about a dozen students from the University of Iowa.
Source: Kim Kelly, Teen Vogue, No Class, February 7, 2019
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spent his final full day on earth advocating for the rights of workers in what’s now known as his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. It was April 3, 1968, and King stood up at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, and spoke in support of the city’s 1,300 sanitation workers, who were then on strike fighting for better safety standards, union recognition, and a decent wage — a work stoppage that was inspired partly by the deaths of Echol Cole and Robert Walker, who had been crushed to death by a garbage truck.
“We’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end,” he told the assemblage. “Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point, in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through. And when we have our march, you need to be there. Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike. But either we go up together, or we go down together.”,,,
Source: Ellen David Friedman, Labor Notes, February 4, 2019
We know good organizers when we meet them.
They’re accessible. They listen and show respect.
They react calmly to all kinds of people, take their time to size up a situation, and engage people on their own terms.
They brim with suggestions for action, but they’re open to new ideas. They’re not bossy. They always take workers’ side against employers—but among workers, they treat divisions with care and diligence.
They don’t act from fear, and they know how to help others lose their fear.
But few people are born organizers. Instead, we have to find and nurture people who show some interest and willingness to become organizers.
An experiment in Ithaca, New York, over the last two years has shown surprising results in helping workers become organizers, with a method easy to adapt and reproduce anywhere….
Source: Janet Paskin, Bloomberg Businessweek, February 7, 2019
Traditional unions may be stymied, but workers are finding new ways to organize….
According to the official records, U.S. workers went on strike seven times during 2017. That’s a particular nadir in the long decline of organized labor: the second-fewest work stoppages recorded by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics since the agency started keeping track in the 1940s.
There was little reason to believe 2018 would be different, especially with the U.S. Supreme Court, in two decisions, making it harder for public employees unions to fund themselves and restricting workers’ rights to bring class actions. The power of employers appeared to be almost limitless. The unions were, if not busted, then certainly on the verge.
Aggrieved workers, however, took matters into their own hands, using social media and other tech tools to enhance their campaigns. From industry walkouts to wildcat teachers’ strikes, they made very public demands of their employers. The official number of major work stoppages recorded by the BLS in 2018 nearly tripled, to 20. Off the picket line, workers also won a wide range of concessions. Facing employee pressure, Google and McKinsey & Co. dropped contracts for government work employees found objectionable; thousands of dismissed Toys “R” Us workers got a severance fund; and Starbucks Corp. expanded parental and sick leave policies.
In many cases, workers and their advocates bypassed their employers entirely…..
Source: Kim Kelly, Teen Vogue, No Class, January 24, 2019
The word strike seems to be on everyone’s lips these days. Workers across the world have been striking to protest poor working conditions, to speak out against sexual harassment, and to jumpstart stalled union negotiations. And as we just saw with the Los Angeles teachers’ successful large-scale strike, which spanned six school days, strikers have been winning. Despite the shot of energy that organized strikes have injected into the labor movement, many people aren’t content with run-of-the-mill work stoppages, or even with more militant wildcat strikes…..
….. So what does it all mean? How is a general strike different from a planned, industry-specific work stoppage; why are people interested in the idea now; and what would one look like in 2019? …..
Source: Eric Ginsburg, Teen Vogue OG History, February 1, 2019
The first day of Black History Month is also the anniversary of a historic civil rights protest and the birth of a student-led movement. February 1 marks the 59th anniversary of the start of the Greensboro sit-ins, a protest started in 1960 by four college students against racial segregation in Greensboro, North Carolina. Their actions quickly spurred a nationwide movement that sparked a fresh wave of the civil rights era….
Source: Valeria M. Pelet del Toro, Yale Law Journal, Vol. 128 no. 3, January 2019
Long skeptical of the ability of rights to advance oppressed groups’ political goals, Critical Legal Studies (CLS) scholars might consider a U.S. territory like Puerto Rico and ask, “What good are rights when you live in a colony?” In this Note, I will argue that CLS’s critique of rights, though compelling in the abstract, falters in the political and historical context of Puerto Rico. Although it may appear that rights have failed Puerto Ricans, rights talk has historically provided a framework for effective organizing and community action. Building on the work of Critical Race Theory and LatCrit scholars, this Note counters the CLS intuition that rights talk lacks value by focusing on the origins and development of the Puerto Rico Legal Project, an understudied but critical force for community development and legal advocacy on the island that was founded in response to severe political repression during the late 1970s and early 1980s. This Note draws on original interviews with Puerto Rican and U.S. lawyers and community activists to reveal fissures in the critique of rights and to propose certain revisions to the theory. By concentrating on the entitlements that rights are thought to provide, CLS’s critique of rights ignores the power of rights discourse to organize marginalized communities. The critique of rights also overlooks the value of the collective efforts that go into articulating a particular community’s aspirations through rights talk, efforts which can be empowering and help spur further political action. By analyzing twentieth-century Puerto Rican legal and political history and the Puerto Rico Legal Project, I demonstrate the value (and limits) of rights in a colonized nation.
Source: Meagan Day, Jacobin, January 23, 2019
AN INTERVIEW WITH LILY BARTLE
The white-collar art world isn’t a hotbed of labor radicalism. But at the New Museum in Manhattan, workers are unionizing. We spoke to a museum worker about it.
Source: Alia Wong, The Atlantic, January 22, 2019
From West Virginia to Los Angeles, educators are ushering in a new era of labor activism.
Political payback for the statewide teacher walkout?
Source: Andrea Eger, Tulsa World, January 22, 2019
Slew of newly filed bills aim to punish, limit future protests.
After LA’s Strike, “Nothing Will Be the Same”
AN INTERVIEW WITH ARLENE INOUYE
Source: Eric Blanc, Jacobin, January 23, 2019
The Los Angeles teachers’ strike was big, it was united, and now it’s victorious. We interview UTLA chief negotiator Arlene Inouye about how the strike turned the tables on the billionaire privatizers.
Los Angeles Teachers Strike for Higher Wages and Smaller Classes
Source: Christopher Palmeri, Bloomberg Businessweek, January 18, 2019
The district has lost enrollment to declining birthrates, rising housing costs, and charter schools.
Source: Richard Wells, Labor: Studies in Working-Class History, Vol. 15 no. 3, September 2018
From the abstract:
This article takes stock of the recent union organizing in digital media. It offers some context, beginning with a discussion of the crisis in the traditional, printbased news business that is both cause and effect of the growth of the digital news media. The article then provides a sampling of the ways in which this crisis has been diagnosed and understood, in terms of the basic economics of the business and in terms of its dire implications for the public sphere. A review of the main themes in the history of union-based struggle in the news industry, followed by considerations of the union role on the infrastructural side of the increasingly Internet-based communications industry, helps pinpoint both the challenges and the possibilities represented by the unionization of digital media workers.