Wednesday October 22nd, 2014, 7:06 pm (EDT)

Immigration

Immigration, transmigration, migrant workers

The Migration and Labor Question Today: Imperialism, Unequal Development, and Forced Migration

It is impossible to disentangle the migration and labor question today without a deep understanding of the nature of contemporary capitalism, namely, neoliberal globalization. One of the main features of the new global architecture…is the assault on the labor and living conditions of the majority of the global working class, and in particular the migrant workforce, which is among the most vulnerable segments of this class. This essay will analyze some key aspects of the system that contemporary migration is embedded in, with emphasis on the process of segmentation and the growing precariousness (precarization) of labor markets worldwide.… | more |

Introduction to Lettuce Wars

A Cab Ride for a Lawyer

This an excerpt from the forthcoming Lettuce Wars: Ten Years of Work and Struggle in the Fields of California (Monthly Review Press, 2012). Part memoir, part informed commentary on farm labor, the U.S. labor movement, and the political economy of agriculture, Lettuce Wars is a lively account written from the perspective of the fields. Bruce Neuburger portrays the people he encountered—immigrant workers, fellow radicals, company bosses, cops and goons—vividly and indelibly, lending a human aspect to the conflict between capital and labor as it played out in the fields of California.… | more |

Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball and the Plague of the 99%

On his most recent album, Wrecking Ball, Bruce Springsteen crafted a powerful statement of support for the working class, the existence of which barely penetrates contemporary art or politics. This is not an accident: the growing power of capital over public discourse has provided it a forceful means through which to shape individual consciousness, and establish an apolitical and at most technocratic understanding of power.… Even in the cultural realm, the art and voices of the working class are sidelined and squelched. Working people thus become invisible.… | more |

Reviving the Strike in the Shadow of PATCO

In the summer of 2011, labor unrest on both coasts provided a sharp rebuttal to the widely held view that the strike is dead (and buried) in the United States. Even as veterans of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) gathered in Florida to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of their historic defeat, a new generation of strikers was taking on big private-sector employers like Verizon and Kaiser Permanente. Last August, 45,000 Verizon workers walked out from Maine to Virginia in a high-profile struggle against contract concessions. One month later, they were joined by 20,000 nurses and other union members similarly opposed to pension and health care givebacks at Kaiser Permanente in California. Both of these struggles came right on the heels of last year’s biggest upsurge, the massive series of public employee demonstrations in Madison, Wisconsin that included strike activity by local high school teachers.… Like the walkouts of 2011, [the three books under review] remind us what striking looks like, whether it fails or succeeds in a single union bargaining unit, or becomes part of a broader protest movement.… | more |

A hundred years since the Triangle Fire

On March 25, 1911, a fire spread through the seventh, eighth, and ninth floors of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The mostly immigrant workers, young Italian, Jewish, and German women who sewed shirtwaists, or women’s blouses, were trapped behind locked doors. The death toll was 146, and many women, their clothing and hair burning, threw themselves from the windows to their deaths on the pavement far below, while spectators watched and could not help. Shortly thereafter, twenty thousand women struck for improved working conditions and wages. The factory building is now part of New York University. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire remains the fourth largest industrial disaster in U.S. history.… | more |

Equality and Rights for Immigrants—the Key to Organizing Unions

Organizing immigrant communities is not a matter of taking pity on the downtrodden. It is a matter of understanding what is necessary for the survival of our communities, of our labor movement. If we are serious in wanting to build political power, then we must incorporate migrant workers, fight for their rights, and make the movement for social justice one that belongs to all of us, documented and undocumented.… | more |

Unions Must Move Left, They Have No Alternative

Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Fernando Gapasin, Solidarity Divided (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008), 324 pages, $17.95, paper.

Through the 1980s I was a union organizer and activist in our Bay Area labor anti-apartheid committee. As we picketed ships carrying South African cargo, and recruited city workers to support the African National Congress (then called a terrorist organization by both the United States and South Africa), I looked at South African unions with great admiration.… | more |

Don’t Pity the Poor Immigrants, Fight Alongside Them

David Bacon, Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Boston: Beacon Press, 2008), 261 pages, $25.95, hardcover.

In this compelling and useful book, David Bacon lays to rest the anti-immigration arguments of the xenophobes and racists who bombard us every day in the press, on television, and on radio talk shows with the vicious assertion that immigrants, mainly those from Latin America, are the cause of all our economic and social problems.… | more |

Why Unions Matter

Why Unions Matter: Second Edition

10th Anniversary Update

In this new edition of Why Unions Matter, Michael D. Yates shows why unions still matter. Unions mean better pay, benefits, and working conditions for their members; they force employers to treat employees with dignity and respect; and at their best, they provide a way for workers to make society both more democratic and egalitarian. Yates uses simple language, clear data, and engaging examples to show why workers need unions, how unions are formed, how they operate, how collective bargaining works, the role of unions in politics, and what unions have done to bring workers together across the divides of race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation.… | more |

A Radical Vision for Today’s Labor Movement

The Importance of Internationalism and Civil Rights

During the Cold War, many of the people with a radical vision of the world were driven out of our labor movement. Today, as unions search for answers about how to begin growing again, and regain the power workers need to defend themselves, the question of social vision has become very important. What is our vision in labor? What are the issues that we confront today that form a more radical vision for our era.… | more |

From Borderline to Borderland: The Changing European Border Regime

All along the European border, the year 2006 set new records: Spanish authorities reported 6,000 refugees dead, drowned in the Atlantic Ocean while trying to reach the Canary Islands, off West Africa.1 Hundreds more suffocated in containers, trucks, and cargo boats in the ports of London, Dublin, and Rotterdam, or froze to death in Eastern Europe. Others, locked up in one of the innumerable internment camps spread all over the heart of Europe and North Africa, desperately decided to end their own lives.2 At the same time, Europe reported the lowest rate in years of refugees officially seeking asylum. This list obviously doesn’t point to a more peaceful world. What it indicates instead is that in Europe the criteria and procedures for securing legal refugee status have become so restrictive that most migrants no longer bother to apply for it. In 2006, Germany for example counted only 20,000 petitions for political asylum, the lowest number since 1977. If we include the member states of the European Union (EU), that number rises to 200,000.3 However, the real story of the border regime, and its constriction of the category for legal entrance and residence, is in the rising body count… | more |

Harder Times: Undocumented Workers and the U.S. Informal Economy

Many of the informal economies operating in the world today are the offspring of globalization and need to be understood as such. The economic and social prospects for people engaged in informal employment-sometimes referred to as “precarious” and “off-the-books employment”-as well as their families and communities, are substantially inferior to those associated with formal employment, and the current boom of informal economic activity bodes ill for all working people… | more |

Labor Needs a Radical Vision

For forty years, AFL-CIO leaders George Meany and Lane Kirkland saw unorganized workers as a threat when they saw them at all. They drove left-wing activists out of unions and threw the message of solidarity on the scrapheap. Labor’s dinosaurs treated unions as a business, representing members in exchange for dues, while ignoring the needs of workers as a whole. A decade ago new leaders were thrust into office in the AFL-CIO, a product of the crisis of falling union density, weakened political power, and a generation of angry labor activists demanding a change in direction. Those ten years have yielded important gains for unions. Big efforts were made to organize strawberry workers in Watsonville, California, asbestos workers in New York and New Jersey, poultry and meatpacking workers in the South, and health care workers throughout the country. Yet in only one year was the pace of organizing fast enough to keep union density from falling… | more |

The Politics of Immigration

The Politics of Immigration

Questions and Answers

In the spring of 2006, millions of immigrants and supporters organized in cities and small towns across the United States to defend their rights following the passage of HR4437, a bill designed to punish unauthorized immigrants. In an unprecedented show of force, tens of thousands of workers marched out of meatpacking plants, factories, restaurants, landscape businesses and stores, while students—many of them the US-born children of immigrants—staged school walkouts. Thousands also observed a one-day national consumer boycott to demonstrate the economic power of immigrant communities.… | more |

The Right Not to Work: Power and Disability

The Right Not to Work: Power and Disability

I have a confession to make: I do not work. I am on SSI.1 I have very little work value (if any), and I am a drain on our country’s welfare system. I have another confession to make: I do not think this is wrong, and to be honest, I am very happy not working. Instead I spend the majority of my time doing the activity I find the most rewarding and valuable, painting… | more |

Naming the System

Naming the System

Inequality and Work in the Global Economy

The economic boom of the 1990s created huge wealth for the bosses, but benefitted workers hardly at all. At the same time, the bosses were able to take the political initiative and even the moral high ground, while workers were often divided against each other. This new book by leading labor analyst Michael D. Yates seeks to explain how this happened, and what can be done about it.… | more |

Worked to the Bone

Worked to the Bone

Race, Class, Power, and Privilege in Kentucky

Worked to the Bone is a provocative examination of race, class and the mechanics of inequality in the United States. In an engaging and accessible style that combines thoroughly documented sociological insight with her own compelling personal narrative, Pem Buck illustrates the ways in which constructions of race and the promise of white privilege have been used at specific historical moments in two Kentucky counties to divide those who might have otherwise acted on common class interests.… | more |

Socialist Register 2001: Working Classes, Global Realities

Socialist Register 2001: Working Classes, Global Realities

Socialist Register 2001 examines the challenges faced by workers and the labor movement under global capitalism in the new century. This collection of twenty timely and original essays lay the groundwork for a much-needed revival of class analysis. A broad range of working-class issues are addressed including knowledge work and the “cybertariat” in the new economy, feminism and unions, migrant labor, peasant struggles, internationalism, and the impact of unstable, casual, and contingent employment. Other essays examine critically important regional experiences in India, Iran, Russia, Brazil, Southern Africa, and East Asia, as well as Europe and North America. Contributors to this volume reveal new and exciting possibilities for change that transcend the limits of old forms of class organization and politics.… | more |

About to Burst Free

James D. Cockcroft, Mexico’s Hope: An Encounter with Politics and History (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1998), 320 pp., $18, paperback.

At the outset of this closely argued history of Mexican capitalism, James Cockcroft asks, “How long will the majority of Mexicans put up with being exploited on both sides of the Mexican-U.S. border? ”… | more |

Rising from the Ashes?

Rising from the Ashes?

Labor in the Age of “Global” Capitalism

Big changes in the global economy and world politics have put new questions on the table for labor movements around the world. Can workers regain the initiative against the tidal wave of corporate downsizing and government cutbacks? Can unions revive their ranks and reignite the public imagination? Is labor rising from the ashes? … | more |

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