Daily Kos Labor digest: ‘We went from Solidarity Forever to the feeble strength of one’
Originally posted Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 09:00 AM PDT
Karen Nussbaum, the executive director of Working America (and my wonderful former employer), reflects on her decades of organizing workers:
We often asked women whom they could turn to if they had a problem on the job. After a pause, a woman might answer, “NOW” (the National Organization for Women) or “9to5″; “I could call a government agency” or “my congressman.” Some suggested calling a union. Most workers could identify an institution on their side, someone or something to back them up.But over the decades, the answer to the question “Whom do you turn to if you have a problem on the job?” has changed. The scope has narrowed. “I might call my mother,” I heard more frequently over time. Then, “I pray to God.” Today, the typical working woman doesn’t even have God in her corner if she’s getting shafted at work. “I rely on myself” is the most likely answer. We went from a group for every cause and “Solidarity Forever” to “the feeble strength of one.”
In a smart, thoughtful reflection of these years of often frustrating experience, Nussbaum explains how, in Working America, she’s trying to create an organization that builds on the strengths, but gets past the limitations of, organizing forms such as unions, Saul Alinsky-style community organizing, mass-membership groups such as AARP, and online activism such as MoveOn (or Daily Kos).
A fair day’s wage
- Volume seven of the unemployment stories Hamilton Nolan is collecting at Gawker has a nice little moment. A formerly unemployed person now working in staffing writes:
I now do staffing for clerical and administrative positions in support of several Fortune 500 companies. It’s horrible. I want to hire everyone, but I can’t. However, I would like to maybe pass along a maybe hopeful message: when I am given sole hiring authority, which happens often, I always hire the long-term unemployed first. I nearly cracked after two months. I can’t imagine what two+ years feel like. Even if it’s just for shitty temp positions, I try to hire them first. They need the resume update, they need the money. When they let me hire who I please, I go in order of length of unemployment from longest to shortest.
- Unsurprisingly, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka does not think much of the scab NFL referees. “Incompetent,” actually, is one of the words he used. (And one he’s not alone in using.)Tell Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL’s owners to end the use of scabs and bring back the league’s experienced officials.
- Speaking of Trumka, he met with the CEO of Palermo’s Pizza, where workers are striking after management refused to recognize their union, then went after workers’ immigrant status and fired 75. Palermo’s, which manufactures frozen pizza for stores including Costco, faces a boycott.
- What are Chicago teachers saying about the approaching possibility of a strike?
“How dare they tell us that poor kids aren’t worth the investment?” said middle school teacher Kimberly Bowsky. “I’m not going to stand for it. And if I have to get knocked down for it, that would be regrettable. But at this point what choice do I or anyone else have?”
- Teachers, meanwhile, are being smeared by Rahm Emanuel ally and well-paid charter chain executive Juan Rangel.
- A class-action lawsuit by workers at Walmart-contracted warehouses is helping shed light on a lot of things Walmart and its contractors are trying very hard to keep hidden. Warehouse workers are on a six-day, 50-mile journey from the warehouses to Los Angeles to draw attention to their working conditions.
- An interview with Ai-Jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
State and local legislation
- More on California’s special exemptions initiative, Prop. 32, which would defund unions in the guise of reforming union and corporate election spending.