Saturday October 25th, 2014, 2:21 am (EDT)

Labor

On Gender and Class in U.S. Labor History

The relationship between gender and class, central to understanding the history of the labor movement, raises important issues for Marxist analysis in general. Grappling with the complexities of this relationship forces us to confront a wide range of theoretical and practical questions. What is the connection between “material conditions” and “identity”? What role do culture, discourses, sexuality, and emotions play in shaping people’s responses to their material conditions? How are the varieties of consciousness of class related to other identities and affiliations? These questions challenge us theoretically and politically, as we seek to develop a working-class politics that incorporates struggles against all forms of oppression … | more |

April 1998 (Volume 49, Number 11)

April 1998 (Volume 49, Number 11)

Readers may remember that in last year’s summer issue on labor we talked about a roundtable organized by MR for activists in the labor movement and held in our office in New York last March. The idea was to provide a forum for labor activists to establish connections among themselves and to discuss issues of common interest at a particularly important historical moment, at a time when the labor movement in various parts of the world, including the United States, is beginning to show signs of renewal. We also hoped to revive the long dormant connection between the socialist left and the labor movement, and we were very pleased to discover that people within the movement were anxious to work with us too … | more |

Teamster Reform Movement Survives Carey’s Debacle

What’s remarkable about the aftermath of Ron Carey’s removal as a candidate for Teamsters president is the staying power of the reform movement. Most predicted the union would quickly fall back into the hands of the mobbed-up Old Guard, personified by James Hoffa, Jr. But in recent local elections rank and file members have chosen to carry on with the business of reform, without the man who once symbolized those changes in the Teamsters … | more |

Confronting the Time Bind

Work, Family, and Capitalism

Socialists have long contended that capitalism produces distinctive and undesirable structures of time. Marx argued that capitalism created an ineluctable downward pressure on wages, forcing workers to work long hours in order to earn enough to sustain themselves. By the same token, lengthening the working day was one of the ways by which employers could increase the production of surplus-value. Marx’s son-in-law, Paul Lafargue, added that capitalism disciplined workers by creating a kind of ideology of work, a moral compulsion to labor; although, in Lafargue’s view, this was in part responsible for capitalism’s periodic crises of overproduction, it was one of the ways by which employers were able to enforce work discipline… | more |

A New Labor Movement for the New Century

A New Labor Movement for the New Century

“Labor has finally awakened from a long, deep sleep.” So declared one observer after the victory of John J. Sweeney’s “New Voice” slate in the 1995 contest for leadership of the U.S. trade union federation, the AFL-CIO. Sweeney’s team promised to make organizing its top priority, and new stirrings in labor have brought unprecedented media attention. With a surprisingly popular and victorious nationwide strike at United Parcel Service in 1997, hopes have risen for a new labor movement. … | more |

Labor and Monopoly Capital

Labor and Monopoly Capital

The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century

This widely acclaimed work, first published in 1974, overturned the reigning ideologies of academic sociology and became the standard text for many basic areas of sociological inquiry, including the science of managerial control, the relationship of technological innovation to social class, and the eradication of skill from work under capitalism.… | more |

Meatpackers

Meatpackers

An Oral History of Black Packinghouse Workers and Their Struggle for Racial and Economic Equality

Available for the first time in paperback, Meatpackers provides an important window into race and racism in the American workplace. In their own words, male and female packinghouse workers in the Midwest—mostly African-American—talk of their experiences on the shop floor and picket lines. They tell of their fight between the 1930s and 1960s for economic advancement and racial equality. In cities like Chicago, Kansas City, Omaha, Fort Worth, and Waterloo, Iowa, meatpackers built a union that would defend their interests as workers—and their civil rights.… | more |

The Women Who Organized Harvard

A Feminist Model of Labor Organization?

Balloons transformed Harvard Yard on May 17, 1988, the day the “servants of the university,” as workers were originally called, voted on whether to join the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW), an affiliate of AFSCME. “Ballooning” lightened the tension, but Kristine Rondeau, lead union organizer, had a grim warning for her staff: “You did a wonderful job. But we don’t have it … It’s very likely we didn’t win.”1 In fact, by a slim margin, they did have it. One of the most influential universities in the world had been outsmarted by some of its unknown employees, mostly women… | more |

Labor, the State, and Class Struggle

After a long period of sustained attack by governments of various stripes, a steady deterioration of working and living standards, and declines in membership and militancy, there are encouraging signs that organized labor is moving again. This may come as a surprise to many, not least on the left, who have long since written off the labor movement as an oppositional force; and it may begin to challenge some of the most widespread assumptions about the nature and direction of contemporary capitalism, assumptions often shared by activists and intellectuals on the left as well as the right.…Although it is, of course, too early to make big claims about this trend, it does seem to be a good moment to take a close look not only at these new signs of activism but also at the nature of labor today and at the environment in which the labor movement now has to navigate.… | more |

How to Spread the Word

In the late l930’s I sat in on a course of education for trade unionists. That these workers had a desire to learn was evident by their enrollment in a class held in the evenings, after they had done a day’s work. That the teacher knew his subject was manifest from the brilliance of his lecture. That the combination of students’ desire and teacher’s grasp of the material did not result in learning was obvious from the fact that before the hour was over, several members of the class were asleep; it was apparent, too, from the decline in enrollment—the next class was attended by only half the students, and the third time the class met, less than a quarter who had signed up were in attendance.… | more |

Walter Reuther, “Social Unionist”

Nelson Lichtenstein, The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor (New York: and Chicago: Basic Books, 1995), 575 pp., $35.00, cloth.

A New York Times obituary for Sophie Reuther on February 23, 1996, declared her husband, Victor, a co-founder of the United Auto Workers. So now the myth that Walter Reuther founded the UAW is extended to include his brother. Unfortunately, the new biography of Walter Reuther by Nelson Lichtenstein will do very little to squelch the myth; this despite the fact that the book documents Reuther’s career, warts and all.… | more |

Longer Hours, Fewer Jobs

Longer Hours, Fewer Jobs

Employment and Unemployment in the United States

Millions unemployed… fewer people working harder for less pay and shrinking benefits… the assets of the wealthiest one percent of the population growing as the population below the poverty line swells… the next generation facing an even more bitter future… Why? Most working people cannot answer this question. In this user-friendly book, Michael Yates explains how employment and unemployment are inextricably connected in an economic system where employers are driven by the search for profits. … | more |

The Power in Our Hands

The Power in Our Hands

A Curriculum on the History of Work and Workers in the United States

This celebrated book provides entertaining, easy-to-use lesson plans for teaching labor history. “Most school teachers are drowned in paper, but here is one book I want to recommend to them. It is a way of getting American teenagers not just interested, but excited and passionate about their history—modern American labor history.” —Pete Seeger… | more |

Bureaucracy and the Labor Process

Bureaucracy and the Labor Process

The Transformation of U.S. Industry, 1860–1920

This book makes the argument, supported by rich and extensive historical research into original sources, that it is possible to revolutionize work so that it can be, in the author’s words, “satisfying, creative, and stimulating at the same time that it is materially productive: we can have material abundance along with interesting work.”… | more |

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

Tressell’s great working-class novel.… | more |

Studies in the Labor Theory of Value

Studies in the Labor Theory of Value

This pioneering survey of the development of the “labor theory of value,” advances Marxian economic categories for contemporary conditions.… | more |

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