The Future of Labor Conference at the GC Tomorrow

Where is the Labor Movement Now? And, Where is it Going?

A One Day Mini-Conference
Friday April 26 at the Graduate Center
Room 9206/9207

This conference responds to the widespread perception among activists and students of the labor movement that the US unions are in severe crisis. We will try to explore why many of the mainstream unions have been in a virtual free-fall for the past thirty years that seems to have no end in sight. We will pay attention to both the decline of union density in the private sector and the attack against public workers and their unions.

At the same time we have witnessed signs of hope. The recent Occupy Wall Street movement can be described as, in part, a labor movement because many of its participants were unemployed, condemned to precarious, part-time or temporary labor, or chronically underemployed. There have been actions by workers centers, particularly domestic, restaurant and taxi workers in New York, and elsewhere. And do the nationwide minority strikes at WalMart and the brief walkout at fast food restaurants indicate new militancy among the working poor?

10am-Noon: The Struggle over Technology
With George Caffentzis and Stanley Aronowitz Moderator, Tom Buechele

1pm-3pm: Accessing the Changing Nature of Work: Who are the New Labor Subjects?
With Immanuel Ness, Sarah Jaffe, and Josh Eidelson Moderator, Karen Gregory

3:30pm-5:30pm: New Developments in the Labor Movement:
Can the Unions Survive/Revive or is a new Strategy for the Labor Movement Necessary?
With Penny Lewis, Jane McAlevey, and Ed Ott Moderator, Stanley Aronowitz


Stanley Aronowitz has taught at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York since 1983, where he is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Urban Education. He studies labor, social movements, science and technology, education, social theory and cultural studies and is director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Technology and Work at the Graduate Center. He is author or editor of twenty-five books including: How Class Works (2003); The Last Good Job in America (2001); The Knowledge Factory (2000); The Jobless Future (1994, with William DiFazio); False Promises: The Shaping of American Working Class Consciousness (1973, 1992); Taking It Big: C. Wright Mills and the Making of Political Intellectuals (2012); and Dead Unions: Birth of A New Labor Movement (Forthcoming).

Tom Buechele is PhD candidate in Sociology and Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of Culture, Technology and Work, CUNY Grad Center and Adjunct Lecturer in sociology at CUNY John Jay.

George Caffentzis is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern Maine. He was a founding member of the Midnight Notes Collective and the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa. He is part of the Edu-factory Network. He is the author of books and articles on the philosophy of money, the struggles over knowledge and education in the US and Africa, as well as the place of energy in capitalism. The books include: A Thousand Flowers: Social Struggles Against Structural Adjustment in African Universities (co-authored), Clipped Coins, Abused Words and Civil government: John Locke’s Philosophy of Money; and, In Letters of Blood and Fire: Work, Machines, and the Crisis of Capitalism.

Josh Eidelson covers labor as a contributing writer at The Nation, Salon, and In These Times. His work has appeared at outlets including Slate, The American Prospect, Washington Monthly, Alternet, Dissent, Dollars and Sense, Jacobin, and Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society. His reporting on the Walmart strike wave received a Sidney award from the Sidney Hillman Foundation.

Karen Gregory is PhD candidate in Sociology at CUNY Grad Center, Instructional Technology Fellow at Hunter College, and Adjunct Lecturer in Labor Studies at Queens College. Her dissertation is entitled “Enchanted Entrepreneurs: The Labor of Psychics in New York City” and her research looks to the intersection of labor, spirituality, and social media.

Sarah Jaffe is an independent journalist, a rabblerouser and contributor to Truthout, AlterNet, The Nation, Jacobin, and others. Her work has been published in The Nation, The American Prospect, Bitch magazine, Bust magazine, AlterNet, TruthOut, and many other publications. She was a contributing editor on The 99%: How the Occupy Wall Street Movement is Changing America, from AlterNet books, as well as a contributor to the anthologies At The Tea Party and Beautiful Trouble, both from OR Books. Follow her exploits on Twitter: @sarahljaffe.

Penny Lewis is Assistant Professor of Labor Studies at the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education at SPS. Her first book, Hardhats, Hippies, and Hawks: The Vietnam Antiwar Movement as Myth and Memory, will be published by Cornell University Press in spring 2013. Her current research continues to look at the social class dynamics of social movements. She has worked as a union organizer and has been active in various labor and community organizations, including Jobs with Justice. She serves as a university-wide officer for the Professional Staff Congress, the union that represents CUNY’s faculty and staff.

Jane McAlevey, a PhD candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center, spent two decades as an organizer in the labor and environmental justice movements. She is author of Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell): My Decade Fighting for the Labor Movement, Verso 2012

Immanuel Ness is professor of political science at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and a founding member of the Lower East Side Community Labor Organization, an autonomous activist organization in New York City. His research and writing focuses on social and revolutionary movements, labor militancy, and migrant worker resistance to oppression. Ness has just completed Guest Workers, Corporate Despotism and Resistance,(forthcoming University of Illinois Press) a book that examines the rise of guest workers from the global South in the US and labor opposition to employer abuses. He is author of numerous books including an anthology of contemporary labor: Real World Labor, with Amy Offner and Chris Sturr (Dollars & Sense).

Ed Ott is Distinguished Lecturer in Labor Studies at the Murphy Institute. He has over 40 years of experience in the labor movement, most recently as Executive Director of the New York City Central Labor Council, which represents 1.3 million trade unionists from over 400 affiliated organizations.