—Samuel Adler-Bell focuses on labor, mass incarceration and literature.
“What’s a Union For?” by Carla Murphy. Colorlines, April 16, 2014.
Carla Murphy argues compellingly that in order for unions to survive, they must organize beyond the workplace, providing outlets for members to confront the injustices that impact their communities—especially mass incarceration and police brutality. This insight is not entirely novel. Service sector unions like SEIU and Unite Here—in which immigrants, people of color and women predominate—have for years been committing union resources and organizing capacity to combating injustices outside the shop. In a review of veteran organizer Jane McAlevey’s new book Raising Expectations (And Raising Hell), Sam Gindin attributes McAlevey’s success during a Stamford, Connecticut unionization drive to her willingness to shift the focus from workplace grievances to housing justice—because that’s what concerned the workers most. Murphy’s piece—which cites the recent example of SEIU 1199’s mobilization against racist policing in New York City in response to the murder of a member’s son by the NYPD—offers an inspiring reminder of something we already know: that people’s connections to each other, the solidarities and shared grievances that form the foundation for powerful mass movements, exceed the confines of jobs and contracts. As one union member told Murphy, “A union is about fighting for democracy in the workplace but a union movement has to be about fighting for democracy in society.”
—Dustin Christensen focuses on Latin American politics and sports.
"A Star Player Accused, and a Flawed Rape Investigation," by Walt Bogdanich. The New York Times, April 16, 2014.
In early 2013, Florida State University freshman quarterback Jameis Winston was accused of rape. However, in a city and region obsessed with football, it took almost a year for police to collect key evidence. Gross negligence extended past the police department to university officials, who failed to investigate the accusations until after Winston's Heisman-winning, national championship season, despite the athletic department's early knowledge of the case. All credit to The New York Times for describing in careful detail every single misstep—and every step skipped altogether—by top officials in the community. Bogdanich's report reveals the disgustingly singular focus on football that is central to so many universities, where football teams generate loads of wealth and football coaches are the highest paid employees in the state. So often, football players and coaches are allowed to act with near impunity while their victims are derided and discredited. Something needs to change.