In June 2019, I attended the annual International Labour Conference (ILC) convened by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland. This year was particularly special, as it marked the 100th anniversary of the ILO. Through the establishment of international labor standards, the ILO has played a key – and often overlooked – role around the world to advance social justice and decent work for all. Continue reading “A TIME OF CELEBRATION AND RENEWED ENGAGEMENT: EVERYDAY TRANSGRESSIONS”
More and more frequently, online dating apps are becoming the answer to the question, “so, how did you two meet?” The widespread appearance of Tinder and other dating apps have changed the way people find and interact with each other, both in a positive and negative way. And just as the communication and social dynamics have changed with the creation of dating apps, so they have with the movement towards a different kind of relationship: the long-distance love.
Danielle J. Lindemann’s Commuter Spouses: New Families in a Changing World explores how married couples cope when they live apart to meet the demands of their dual professional careers. Her book gives readers almost one-hundred in-depth interviews with current or former commuter spouses that demonstrate the reflection, embodiment, and sometimes disruption of large-scale developments in the ways we think about gender and marriage, the ways we communicate, and the ways we conceptualize family.
Philip Rathgeb, author of the recently published Strong Governments, Precarious Workers: Labor Market Policy in the Era of Liberalization, chatted with our publicity manager Cheryl Quimba. Here’s their conversation:
What is Strong Governments, Precarious Workers about?
It examines why some European welfare states protect unemployed and ‘atypically’ employed workers better than others. While all countries faced the emergence of such precarious workers, some compensated them with better protection and training, whereas others reinforced new divisions within the workforce. The question is, why? Looking at the cases of Austria, Denmark, and Sweden in particular, I find that trade unions are the most consistent force in resisting precarious employment and welfare. What is most striking, however, is that left-right differences between political parties matter less for trade unions – and thus precarious workers – than differences between weak and strong governments. Only when governments are weak can trade unions enforce greater social solidarity in the interest of precarious workers. The book therefore challenges theories that attribute precarity to union clientelism.
Can you explain this relationship between strong governments and precarious workers?
The gradual stages of the liberalization era shifted the balance of class power from labor to capital, which created opportunities for employer associations to push governments in their preferred direction. Governments of the right as well as the left therefore stimulated job creation by liberalizing the labour market. Strong governments are unrestrained in this regard, because they are internally united and have enough seats in parliament. As a result, they can marginalize trade unions to prevent lengthy and costly negotiations. Weak governments, by contrast, need trade unions for consensus mobilization, which creates opportunities for trade unions to strike policy deals for precarious workers. Variations in government strength best explain why trade unions in Social Democratic countries like Denmark and especially Sweden faced remarkable defeats in labor market reform, whereas their counterparts in a Conservative country like Austria remained influential and could thus enhance the protection of precarious workers.
What motivated you to write this book?
What I find striking is the gradual breakdown of the long-term employment relationship in favour of flexible short-term jobs. Among the middle classes of my generation – the so-called “millennials” – this shift is often welcomed, because it can create greater autonomy in working life. You can switch jobs and adapt working hours according to your current life situation or desire for self-realization. This is certainly a great progress for well-educated people without problems in making ends meet or reconciling work-family life.
But I care more about the other side of this story: in-work poverty, unpredictable income, low protection when unemployed or retired. While “flexibility” means greater autonomy for some, it means greater insecurity for others. I wanted to understand when political actors respond to the social demands of workers that are unemployed or on temporary ‘atypical’ contracts, as they face the costs of growing flexibility on contemporary labour markets.
Why do you think this is important?
Precarity is associated with several trends that are detrimental to democracy and society. First, we know that precarious workers are less likely to vote, because they gradually lose faith in the political system. This refers to a process of political resignation so impressively captured by Marie Jahoda, Paul Lazarsfeld, and Hans Zeissel in their seminal study Die Arbeitslosen von Marienthal. I vividly remember reading this book when I was in high school, as it has shaped my way of thinking about unemployment ever since. Second, it is clear that precarious workers are more likely to face economic poverty, unequal life chances, poor health, and even an increased relative risk of suicide. Understanding how political actors respond to precarity is thus of great political and social significance in contemporary capitalism.
Philip Rathgeb is a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Konstanz.
As part of our month-long celebration of Black History Month, we broke open the stacks and searched for unusual books that showcase African American history. With our focus on labor history, through our imprint ILR Press, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that we have a book of classic labor posters. Still, it’s gratifying and energizing to look through and discover posters within this book that broach subjects of race discrimination, hate crimes, and African American organized labor.
Here’s a small selection of these posters from the pages of Agitate! Educate! Organize! American Labor Posters by Lincoln Cushing and Timothy W. Drescher. Continue reading “Labor Posters with a Message of Equality”
Hopefully, you’re not dealing with the flu, but if you are, authors Sara L. Merwin, MPH, and Karen A. Friedman, MD, have some handy tips in their patient-centric book The Informed Patient: A Complete Guide to a Hospital Stay.
As we’re all seeing and hearing on the news at the moment, we’re smack dab in the middle of the worst flu season for some time. Bear in mind that the late fall and winter months usually have the longest wait times for a bed. Continue reading “Be an Informed Patient this flu season”
Human rights strategist Greg Asbed has been granted a 2017 MacArthur Fellowship. A co-founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Greg’s story, and the story of the immigrant farm workers who have fought for and won significant gains in worker rights against great odds, has been documented in I Am Not a Tractor! How Florida Farmworkers Took On the Fast Food Giants and Won by Susan L Marquis, forthcoming from ILR Press this fall. The following is a brief excerpt from the first chapter.
God, it was frustrating, but the two knew they were in the right place. When Greg Asbed and Laura Germino looked out the window of the small storefront office, they faced the cracked asphalt, broken concrete dividers, and courageous weeds that made up the Pantry Shelf parking lot. Throughout the day, the occasional beat-up Ford or rusted Chevy would pull in, seeking the shade of the grocery store wall. But most were walking. Women, arms loaded with bags, walked out the market’s doors and down streets patterned by the shade of trees loaded with Spanish moss and the glaring sun of southwest Florida. Some carried fruit that reminded them of home in Haiti, but most were carrying the soda, chips, and other junk food that was cheapest in the overpriced market. Continue reading “From Immokalee Organizer to MacArthur Fellow: Meet Greg Asbed”
“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.” —Mark Twain
By Gregory Wood, author of Clearing the Air: The Rise and Fall of Smoking in the Workplace
As I wrote about the histories of working-class smoking, tobacco control, and nicotine addiction in my book, Clearing the Air: The Rise and Fall of Smoking in the Workplace, I was often reminded of my own difficult past as a heavily addicted cigarette smoker. In fact, the project stemmed from two important sources: first, my discovery of unique documents that detailed the history of working-class smoking practices at Hammermill Paper Company in Erie, Pennsylvania, during 1915; and the insights gained from my own hellish experiences with nicotine addiction. For eleven years, throughout what was my twenties, I was a regular smoker who came to know very well the power of addiction and how tobacco use facilitated challenges to managers’ authority at work.
I began smoking as a new student in college in order to socialize with other individuals who happened to be smokers: in other words, I started using tobacco to fit in with a new peer group. My addiction to nicotine unfolded very quickly, occurring over a period of no more than a month in the fall semester of 1992. Sadly, I took to smoking very, very easily. By December 1992, toward the end of my first semester in college, I needed nearly a pack of cigarettes every day in order to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Continue reading “The Labor of Addiction: A Personal History of Smoking in the Workplace”