Our Latest Issue!


Our (very late) May/June 2019 issue, our Annual Labor Issue is out!  Two articles from the issue are posted–Mark Paul’s Traditional Measures of Unemployment Are Missing the Mark, and (related) Arthur MacEwan’s Why Is the Economy Doing So Well?.  The table of contents can be found here.

Here is the editors’ note, with a guide to the issue:

Labor and Ideology

Once you’ve read Abhilasha Srivastava’s feature article about India’s deceptively named “manual scavengers,” our cover photo—and the sewage the worker is shoveling—is difficult to look at. We thought twice about using the photo on the cover, but decided that if these workers can do this work, the least we can do is to take a look at their situation. The article exposes how India’s caste ideology “reinforces the (mis)understanding that sanitation work is not work and sanitation workers are not workers.” That system impedes solidarity across caste lines, so that India’s workers-who-aren’t-workers haven’t made the kinds of advances that sanitation workers in other countries have achieved.
Ideology about what counts as (legitimate) work also plays a role in the lives of sex workers, as Jenny Heinemann discusses in the issue’s second feature article. Both sex workers and academic workers can be exploited and marginalized, but because academic work—even when done by hyper-exploited adjuncts—is considered legitimate, “efforts by academic workers to improve the conditions in which they work are generally seen as reasonable.” Sex work, in contrast, is stigmatized to the point where “prostitutes” have been considered unclean and their bodies considered “sewers,” in a parallel to India’s stigmatized sanitation workers. The idea that sex work is inherently coerced in ways that other kinds of work are not feeds neoliberal solutions (like the SESTA and FOSTA legislation that was approved last year) to the exploitation of sex workers that will only intensify that exploitation.
In our third feature, James M. Cypher and Mateo Crossa pick up the story of NAFTA and its replacement, the USMCA, from where they left off in their feature article in the March/April issue. Labor and ideology play key roles in this story, too. Access to cheap labor
for U.S. corporations—especially in the auto sector—continues to be a key aim for the USMCA, similar to NAFTA. Moreover, “peak business associations” like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are playing a key role in spinning the agreement, falsely claiming that it will result in more secure, well-paying jobs in the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Meanwhile, Mexico’s new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, ran on a platform that promised to break from the country’s neoliberal traditions— and yet he supports the neoliberal USMCA. His attempts to “re-channel deeply embedded social patterns and entrenched institutional structures that have encased NAFTA thus far” will be an uphill battle.
Two other articles in this issue also address the gap between appearances (or spin) and workers’ reality—Mark Paul’s examination of the failures of traditional measures of the labor market and Arthur MacEwan’s take on why the U.S. economy looks like it’s doing well, yet isn’t doing so well after all. The economy is at “full employment,” yet alternative measures give a less-than-rosy picture, and wages are barely growing, with workers taking a smaller share of growth. As MacEwan puts it, “The economy is doing well, but the people aren’t.”
One positive note in this issue is in Amanda Page-Hoongrajok’s piece on the recent strike victory at Stop & Shop, a New England grocery store chain. This issue’s 45th-anniversary retrospective article excerpt is from a piece that longtime Labor Notes editor Jane Slaughter wrote for our March 1984 issue about the toll contract concessions have on low-wage workers. Fast forward 36 years, and the trend of highly profitable companies asking workers to make concessions is alive and well. The fact that Stop & Shop workers, unlike the striking Greyhound drivers in the early 1980s, were able to force their employer to give up on calling for pay and benefit cuts is a major victory. The Stop & Shop strike built off of the momentum of last year’s wave of teachers’ strikes and was the largest private-sector strike since the 2016 Verizon strike.
Also in this issue: John Miller reviews the literature on the “optimal” top marginal tax rate, Jerry Friedman looks at the state of labor unions in the United States, and more!


Make sure to check out the ad for Left Forum 2019 on the back cover of this issue. D&S will, as usual, have a table at the book exhibit, and we’ll be holding a 45th-anniversary celebration in Brooklyn on the evening of June 29th, with wine, cheese, and a special guest—economist Anwar Shaikh. Save the date, and visit the D&S blog for details!

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