Working In These Times

Thursday, Jul 9, 2020, 9:00 pm  ·  By Shaun Richman

The Powerful Movement To Micromanage and Defund Public Schools Has Been Awfully Quiet About Police

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who advocates moving government funds from public schools to private charters, has said nothing about moving money from police departments to alternative services. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)  

Police are violently suppressing street protests across the country in mutiny against community demands for democratic accountability and respect for human rights. Their brutal rejection of basic demands for greater oversight and penalties has fueled larger demands for defunding police departments, if not outright abolition and replacement with other bodies. In this context, some activists are calling for a crackdown on police unions, which they say protect police from democratic accountability.

That these calls are not being joined by a seemingly obvious ally is telling.


Thursday, Jul 9, 2020, 1:04 pm  ·  By Hamilton Nolan

The Public Sector’s Right to Strike Is Left Behind in Biden-Bernie Task Force Compromise

In this screengrab taken from campaign website, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) endorses Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden during a live streaming broadcast on April 13, 2020. (Photo by via Getty Images)  

Yesterday’s release of the recommendations of the “Unity Task Force” made up of delegates from both the Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden camps marked an unprecedented attempt to formally unite the centrist and progressive wings of the Democratic Party. But it also crystallized the depth of their ideological disagreement, including within the world of organized labor.


Thursday, Jul 9, 2020, 6:50 am  ·  By Alice Herman

Organizing Against Police Unions Has Invigorated Hollywood’s Labor Movement, Members Say

Hollywood Boulevard is painted with the words "All Black Lives Matter" as protests continue in the wake of George Floyd’s death on June 13, 2020 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)  

The labor movement is split on the question of cops. While union officials have signaled their tempered support for police unions, the push to expel law enforcement from the movement has grown quickly in the rank-and-file. 

The Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) led the way with a June 8 resolution urging the AFL-CIO to drop the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA). Nine days later, the Martin Luther King, Jr. County Labor Council, an AFL-CIO regional affiliate, voted to expel the Seattle Police Officers Guild from the coalition. Union shops representing postdoc researchers and teaching assistants have since passed resolutions demanding police union disaffiliation from the AFL-CIO, and a coalition of workers within the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) have put forward a similar call to expel its police union affiliates. 

Except the WGAE, no national unions within the AFL-CIO have positioned themselves against police unions beyond calling for the IUPA—a union representing over 100,000 officers across the United States—to reform itself. But a movement is brewing in two large Hollywood unions.

Within the ranks of two unions representing theater and entertainment workers—International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and the Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA)—the push to kick police out of the AFL-CIO has ballooned in the span of a few weeks, with members of each union saying that the effort has pushed them to consider, some for the first time, the power they possess as unionized workers.


Wednesday, Jul 8, 2020, 1:32 pm  ·  By Hamilton Nolan

The Future of Homeless Organizing Lives on the Prettiest Street in Philadelphia

A homeless encampment is nestled in a park at 22nd Street and The Benjamin Franklin Park Way. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)  

In the beginning, they called it “Camp Maroon,” harkening back to the runaway slaves who built their own free communities in the Americas. Then it was called James Talib Dean camp, named after one of its organizers, who passed away in June. Then it was called Lakay Nou, meaning “our home.” To many in Philadelphia, it’s simply known as the encampment on 22nd Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, stretching a full block down the handsome, leafy avenue leading up the Philadelphia Museum of Art. But you could also call it an inspiration.


Thursday, Jul 2, 2020, 12:45 pm  ·  By Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez

To the Texas GOP, “Freedom of Choice” During a Pandemic Means the Freedom to Die for Profit

People sit at the bar of a restaurant in Austin on June 26. Texas Republicans have forced workers to choose between risking their health while working or to make no money at all. (Sergio Flores/AFP via Getty)  

In Texas, we now have the dubious distinction of having joined the six other states with over 100,000 COVID-19 cases. In Texas, like in many other GOP controlled states, our Governor and Lt. Governor took their cues on how to respond to COVID-19, not from health experts but from the political whims of Donald Trump, who proved to have a questionable grasp on how the disease worked when he suggested injecting disinfectant and using UV light to cure patients of COVID-19.

Today in Texas, thousands of new cases are being reported daily. Hospitals in Houston and across the state are at near capacity. Adult COVID-19 patients are being transferred to Texas children’s hospitals to meet the exploding healthcare crisis in Harris County, the state’s most populous region. On June 26, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) was forced to backpedal on his promise that Texas was going to remain “wide open for business.” And he shut-down bars and reduced seating at restaurants, just five weeks after he allowed them to reopen.

I am lucky. I’m able to keep working from home, but both of my parents have lost their regular income and are struggling to get by in the new COVID-19 reality. Before COVID-19 my parents lived below the poverty line. My 62 year-old diabetic mom, who doesn’t have more than a ninth grade education, worked as a Spanish language interpreter at a hospital.  When COVID-19 began spreading, she quit her job. For her going to work literally became a life or death choice. My dad ran a small fair trade business selling jewelry from Mexico, last year he personally made $18,000. Now, both my parents get their food from local pantries and food banks.

Yet, my life did change dramatically post COVID-19, because two weeks before Texas shut down on March 19, I was crisscrossing the state running as a progressive in the Democratic primary for the Senate, talking to voters about the economic pain they were already living before COVID-19  (in a 12-way race I missed making it into the run off by 1.5%)


Wednesday, Jul 1, 2020, 11:21 am  ·  By Maurizio Guerrero

A Mexican Labor Lawyer Denounced U.S. Pressure to Reopen Maquiladoras. Then She Was Jailed.

A protester rises her fist during a demonstration to demand the freedom of the lawyer and activist Susana Prieto, defender of Mexican workers, on June 11, 2020 In Mexico City, Mexico. (Ricardo Castelan Cruz / Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)  

Update: Susana Prieto was released from the Ciudad Victoria prison on July 1, although under harsh conditions imposed by the judge of the state of Tamaulipas. For the next 30 months, she cannot enter Tamaulipas and cannot continue her advocacy work for maquiladora workers in the state. She cannot leave her residence in Chihuahua state during the next 30 months, and cannot travel to the United States during this period, even though her five children reside in this country. In a video on her Facebook account, she said that she fears for her life and the lives of her attorneys in Tamaulipas. She said that she will file an appeal against the conditions of her release.

Throughout the month of May, as the coronavirus pandemic was peaking in Mexico, Susana Prieto, a top Mexican labor attorney who has been defending workers' rights for over three decades, was making her voice heard.


Tuesday, Jun 30, 2020, 12:31 pm  ·  By Rebecca Chowdhury

These Workers Don’t Get Aid and Are Going Hungry. A Tax on New York Billionaires Could Help Them.

People wait in line to receive food at a food bank on April 28, 2020 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)  

Coronavirus cases continue to climb across the Southern and Western United States. In New York, previously the nation’s epicenter, many of the residents reeling from the economic consequences are excluded from any government assistance.


Tuesday, Jun 30, 2020, 10:21 am  ·  By Hamilton Nolan

Police Union Denies Racism, Calls AFL-CIO President “Disgraceful” in Irate Letter

Cabral’s outrage notwithstanding, Trumka himself has actually been an ally of police unions in the AFL-CIO. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)  

In a scathing letter to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka dated June 12, the leader of the International Union of Police Associations said that a statement about America’s history of racism and violence against black people is “patently false,” and angrily denounced Trumka as “disgraceful” for “playing to the crowd” on the issue of police reform. 


Monday, Jun 29, 2020, 4:28 pm  ·  By Jeff Schuhrke

Weed That’s Legal and Union: Marijuana Dispensary Becomes First in Illinois to Unionize

A Chicago weed dispensary just became the first in Illinois to unionize. (Photo by Alberto Ortega/Getty Images)  

In a historic first for Illinois, workers at the Sunnyside cannabis dispensary in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood have voted overwhelmingly to unionize.


Thursday, Jun 25, 2020, 2:54 pm  ·  By Mindy Isser

How an Old-School Electricians Union Got Behind a Socialist Running on the Green New Deal

(Photo courtesy of Nikal Saval/Facebook)  

Nikil Saval is an unlikely Philadelphia politician. The socialist, writer, organizer and former editor of left-wing magazine n+1 beat long-time incumbent Larry Farnese for state senate in the First District in a surprise upset. Although the Covid-19 pandemic threatened to derail his campaign, the issues Saval embraced—a Homes Guarantee, Universal Family Care, and a Green New Deal—have grown more urgent as our economy has unraveled. And making him an even more unlikely candidate, he won the backing of a conservative electricians union—a rare feat for a Green New Deal advocate. His platform, which was proven popular enough to beat a fairly progressive legislator, will be extremely challenging to implement. In order to win life-changing reforms like a Green New Deal, Saval and his allies will need to build a broad and powerful coalition—including with some strange bedfellows.