A labor journalism resurgence?

As unions and workers suffered defeats over the past few decades, so has labor journalism dwindled from a mainstay of major media outlets across Canada and the US to a relatively niche reporting interest. The past few years, however, have seen a still small but noticeable resurgence of labor reporting. Large media outlets, both print and online, have once again started to hire journalists looking at workers’ issues and reporting from the perspective of workers. At the same time, independent media have continued to do the same and some have gained in readership and size. The staff at some new media outlets, most recently Gawker and Salon, have even unionized themselves. This week’s podcast looks at the state of labor journalism, trying to get a sense of the current rekindling.

It’s a big podcast, too, with four guests. First up, I talk to Sarah Jaffe, prolific freelancer who covers labor issues from a grassroots perspective. Sarah writes for The Nation, the Guardian, In These Times and many other venues; she is also co-host, with Michelle Chen, of the excellent Belaboured podcast. Next, I speak with Lydia de Pillis, labor reporter at the Washington Post, one of the crop of reporters rebooting the labor beat at major media. My third guest from the US is Mike Elk, labor reporter for the online magazine Politico. Mike is a former organizer and has long roots in the labor movement. My final conversation is with Sam Ponting, one of the editors of RankAndFile.ca, Canada’s new independent source for labor news and commentary. Sam provides some perspective on the situation of labor media in Canada and how worker-focused media can make a difference in labour campaigns.

Fight15-11

Read More

Working class disarmed, Canadian redux

Looking at the prevalence of strikes in the US over the past six decades, Doug Henwood writes,

Second Amendment fetishism aside, there’s an old saying that the working class’s ultimate weapon is withholding labor through slowdowns and strikes. By that measure, the U.S. working class has been effectively disarmed since the 1980s.

Doug then produces a graph showing a precipitous decline in the number of strikes in the US involving more than 1000 workers starting about three decades ago. Intrigued, two thoughts quickly crossed my mind. First, as is often the case, I wanted to see whether the same trend holds for Canada. Second, I was curious whether the decline had anything to do with the large scale of the strikes in the data Doug used.

Sure enough, the conclusions are (sadly) the expected ones: Canada exhibits the same trend and shows it to be one that is independent of the number of employees striking or locked out.

Figure 1. Work stoppages relative to employment: the number of person-days of work lost to stoppages (strikes and lockouts) divided by total employment. Source: CANSIM, FRED and BLS.
Figure 1. Work stoppages relative to employment: the number of person-days of work lost to stoppages (strikes and lockouts) divided by total employment. Source: CANSIM, FRED and BLS.

(more…)

Read More

In and out of crisis with Sam Gindin

Today’s podcast is a feature interview with fellow political economist Sam Gindin. I interrogate Sam about the political economy of the present: the exit from the 2007 crisis, the role of states, austerity, the place of finance and the possibilities of resistance.

Sam Gindin is a left political economist with a long career. He was the longtime Research Director of the CAW and later held the Packer Visiting Chair in Social Justice at York University. Most recently, Sam authored The Making of Global Capitalism with Leo Panitch, a book that has gone on to win prestigious awards and spark important debates.

Read More