Month: August 2013

Labor’s Trek: A discussion on the importance of building The Next Generation of Southern labor activists.

My labor education came pretty early in life. My father was a union steward at the job that he had held since before my birth, and I was always surrounded by union literature, clothing, and other paraphernalia. I vividly remember him being active in the rank-and-file drive to prevent NAFTA from becoming law, even continuing that fight after he was laid off. When my father officially reentered the labor movement as a labor educator in 1999, it solidified the union’s place in my life. As I spent my summers traveling with him throughout the Midwest to give steward’s trainings and new member/new hire trainings, amongst others, the images and the people we met along the way helped to solidify the notion that a union is as strong as its membership. There was one conspicuous absence amongst all of those workers that I met in my journeys throughout the House of Labor: young people.

I recognize that my entry into the labor movement was a lot easier than it is for most people. After all, not many people have a parent that is a labor organizer or educator. But as we search for ways to strengthen and grow the labor movement, especially in the South, we must make the integration of young people (my definition being 15-36) into labor a priority.

Bodies That Matter: Moral Mondays Promote Visibility and Momentum

“Such collective disidentifications can facilitate a reconceptualization of which bodies matter, and which bodies are yet to emerge as critical matters of concern”  

-Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter (xiv).

 Which bodies “matter,” and which bodies will emerge as a “critical concern” in North Carolina? While theorist Judith Butler was referring to disidentifications regarding people’s sex and gender with society, these words resonate with me when thinking of Moral Mondays in North Carolina. We are a collection of “disidentifications,” people who do not fit tightly into a box woven with society’s notions of various privileges. The variety of political signs present at Moral Mondays evidences this reality. Increasingly more people are fighting silence and gaining visibility through physically occupying a space. This collaboration between people with various issues has reiterated the importance of physical visibility and voice in organizing for southern progressivism, as well as making visible bodies that matter.

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Culture Warriors: Why creating a “culture of unionism” is essential for increasing labor density in the South.

(This was a joint post, written with Cato Uticensis, which is the pseudonym of a union organizer working in the South. He likes barbecue, bourbon, cigars, and labor politics. He can be found on Twitter at @Cato_of_Utica.)

One of the difficulties of organizing in the South is that the struggles here frequently occur under a veil of invisibility due to the lack of pro-worker media down here. Barring major fights like the United Food and Commercial Workers’ (UFCW) fifteen-year long trench war against Smithfield Foods, where everything from cops on the company payroll to enterprise corruption lawsuits were used against the union, most of our battles do not gain much in the way of attention outside of the communities where they occur, and when there is coverage it is almost always skewed against the union. Even when unionized businesses hit hard times or close, the workers are never part of the story.