New Issue!

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Our November/December 2017 issue is out!  You can find the table of contents of the issue here, and I just posted John Miller’s “Up Against the Wall Street Journal” column here.  And here is the p. 2 editorial note, including news that signals the end of an era: our long-time co-editor, Alejandro Reuss, is leaving D&S. He will be greatly missed!

Contradictions of Capitalist Development

In their renowned book, The Deindstrialization of America (1984), Barry Bluestone and Bennet Harrison describe what deindustrialization has wrought for workers in the manufacturing “core” of the Northeast United States: “Their very jobs are being pulled out from under them. And instead of providing new employment opportunities, a higher standard of living, and enhanced security, the decisions of corporate managers are doing just the opposite.”
In her cover story for this issue, Marie Duggan gives us a fine-grained and deeply human story of the decline and fall of the machine-tool industry in Keene, N.H. Above all, Duggan’s message is that deindustrialization is not something that “just happened,” but the result of human decisions—from the level of firm managers and owners to the heights of national economic policymaking and back. Likewise for the consequences, which ruptured what can only be described an intimate relationship between the owners, managers, and workers in the industry. A traditional “welfare capitalism,” where owners and managers cared for “their men,” with a mixture of real feeling, paternalism, and hostility to labor organization, gave way to a form where the workers got the shite end of the stick, the relationship exploded into open conflict, and the industry was ultimately left as a looted shell.
Patricia Rodriguez takes us to a different part of the world, to the port city of Buenaventura, Colombia, and a different—equally searing—account of capitalist development. Here, the rise of the modern port industry is bringing “environmental destruction and the forced, violent displacement of Afro-descendant and indigenous communities in the area.” Rodriguez, too, gives us a human story of the dispossessions and violence suffered by the poor and marginalized, but also the inspiring story of their resistance to these assaults and their determination is devising and fighting for alternatives.
Finally, among our features, an interview with economist William Tabb takes us around the globe—from the high-income countries that were the epicenter of the global crisis to developing countries that face the harrowing prospect of dealing with globally mobile capital. In the former, workers face a power structure committed to wage repression and financialization; in the latter, they face elites that have abandoned national autonomous development in favor of neoliberalism and integration with global capital. Yet, Tabb, too, gives reason for hope rather than despair—that, in response to a system that is neither socially nor ecologically sustainable, we will see the growth of anti-capitalist resistance.
Also in this issue: Gerald Friedman on Medicare for All, John Miller on the Trump tax giveaway to (you guessed it!) corporations and the very rich, Arthur MacEwan on the labor share of total income in the USA and other high-income countries.

“To New Battlefields …”

This is the final issue for Alejandro Reuss as co-editor of Dollars & Sense. He first became involved with D&S, as an intern, in 1996. Since then, he has been a collective member, an Associate (when he was at UMass-Amherst for graduate school), and co-editor (in two separate stints, 2000–2002 and 2013–2017). All told, he has been on the D&S staff for seven years and on the collective for sixteen, and has had an immeasurable impact on the organization and its publications. He will no longer be on the D&S staff, board, or collective, or in any other formal leadership position in the organization. “The only ties will be of another nature—the kind that cannot be broken.”

Our Annual Labor Issue Is Out!

0916cover-large-for-blogOur September/October Annual Labor issue is printing now, and the full-color pdf has been sent to electronic subscribers.  (Not a subscriber? Click here to subscribe.)  We have posted our lead feature, Class Struggle By Other Means: Tennessee, Volkswagen, and the Future of Labor, by Chris Brooks, and also John Miller’s “Up Against the Wall Street Journal column, “Equal Pay” Is Not So Equal.

This issue features a gorgeous cover collage and several interior illustrations by Brian Hubble.

Here is the pg. 2 editorial note from this issue:

If You’re Not Moving Forward, You’re Moving Backward

The U.S. labor movement has been in a rut for decades. Its problems, to be sure, are not all of its own making; it got into its predicament with no little amount of shoving from employers and the state. But the leadership of the “official” union movement has often been the movement’s own worst enemy.

Conservative business unionism, a lack of attention to or enthusiasm for new organizing, and a cozy relationship with employers and the state contributed to a long downward slide from the 1950s on. Over sixty years later, we’re still not out of the rut. The unions’ tactics of “friendly” relations with employers and government officials simply do not cut it—not even in industries that used to be union strongholds.

In this issue’s lead feature, Chris Brooks takes us to the auto industry, and the case of Volkswagen in Tennessee, against a backdrop of lavish government giveaways for companies and austerity for the working class. Instead of organizing aggressively around issues like the crushing pace of work, the United Auto Workers (UAW) staked itself on labor-management cooperation, loudly proclaiming its commitment to company “competitiveness.” Brooks calls for a more militant approach, based not only on facing up to conflict with employers and the government, but also on championing a broader agenda for the working class as a whole.

There are several other ways, highlighted in this year’s Annual Labor Issue, in which the labor movement’s future depends on its ability to adapt and fight in a changing industrial and political landscape.

Labor lawyer Ira Sills puts an encouraging piece of breaking news—the National Labor Relations Board’s recent ruling that graduate teaching assistants at private universities are, indeed, employees entitled to the protections of the National Labor Relations Act—into a broader historical context. As Sills points out, the NLRB became increasingly “politicized” from the 1980s on, especially with the appointment of anti-labor ideologues who were hell-bent on making things as hard on workers and unions as possible. The unions, accustomed to organizing within the NLRB election system, were not successful in finding other ways to organize. But the successes of graduate employee organization and public institutions and the struggles of graduate employees to organize at private institutions certainly provided some of the impetus behind the recent legal change.

The question of who is regarded as an “employee” has wider implications in the U.S. economy today, especially in light of the rise of contingent or “gig” employment. Economist Anders Fremstad looks at the reality of work today in one the highest-profile segments of the contingent labor market—“sharing economy” companies like Uber and Lyft. Fremstad argues that the “sharing economy” may work for underused physical assets (that, when lying unused, can be rented out at little cost to the owner), it’s a different story when it comes to labor time. Using even spare time for labor takes something away from the “gig” worker, and the huge slice of revenue that companies like Uber take off the top makes it very hard for sharing-economy workers to scratch out a living. Fremstad argues, instead, for alternative types of “sharing economy” enterprises—such as public enterprises connecting workers with consumers, without the exploitive cut taken by private for-profit companies.

Jeremy Brecher tackles the question of labor and the vexing challenge of climate change. He outlines an appealing and feasible program, originated by the Labor Network for Sustainability, that would bring about needed reductions in greenhouse gas emissions while creating more robust job growth than a “business as usual” (fossil-fuel based) scenario. The aim is not just to defuse any possible labor opposition—founded on the canard that environmental regulations are “job killers”—to climate policy. It is also to create the foundation for a new relationship between the labor and environmental movements.
New visions for the labor movement like these—visions of broad solidarity rather than narrow interest, of alternative economic institutions, of active struggle for a sustainable future—show how labor can move forward again.

Also in this issue: John Miller on the gender wage gap, Arthur MacEwan on the supposed threat of artificial intelligence, Gerald Friedman on the bleak jobs picture, and more.