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World Wide Work

This edition of the free bulletin, World Wide Work, is published by the American Labor Education Center, an independent nonprofit founded in 1979.

Wall Street's destruction of our economy continues to affect all of us. Here's information about a few useful resources.

  • "This Can Be Our Moment" is a provocative article by This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it that proposes innovative strategies to challenge Wall Street and global corporations responsible for the economic crash.
  • Inside Job is a must-see film and organizing tool. The fast-paced, no-holds-barred Academy Award winner for best documentary explains what Wall Street did that destroyed jobs, put millions out of their homes, and led to massive cuts in schools and other public services. There are a few flaws – it spends too much time on how academic and administration economists are bought off and too little on corporations' attacks on workers and their unions, for example. But overall it provides a dramatic and understandable account that has been sorely missing from most of the news media.
  • "Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail?" is an in-depth feature in Rolling Stone magazine (March 3, 2011).
  • The Cry Wolf Project challenges the refrain by Wall Street and other corporations that any public oversight or taxation will cost jobs. It shows that such claims in the past have consistently turned out to be untrue.
  • Failure by Design by Josh Bivens (Cornell University) provides 46 useful charts or graphs that illustrate the impact of increased economic inequality in America as a result of public policy choices influenced by corporate lobbyists. One useful concept the report advances is the "inequality tax" that working people are paying in a variety of ways as public policies drive down their incomes and savings. More information from the Economic Policy Institute where Bivens works is available in the online publication, The State of Working America 2011.
  • United for a Fair Economy provides additional facts and analysis.
  • Winner-Take-All-Politics by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson (Simon & Schuster) describes a vicious circle in which increasing economic inequality has strengthened the power of wealthy elites over both major political parties, leading to policies that result in even more economic inequality, which leads to more corporate domination of politics, and so on.

Films

  • Triangle (HBO Films). This film reminds us what happens when there are no public safeguards that all corporations must follow. It marks the 100th anniversary of the killing of 146 garment workers in the Triangle factory fire in New York. Ways to prevent such deaths – sprinklers; fire drills; adequate exits, stairways, and elevators -- were known at the time but were not required and therefore not provided by the factory owners (who collected their insurance money after the slaughter and resumed business as usual). The deaths led to a new understanding of the need for government safeguards in New York and eventually in the nation as a whole. An unusual feature of this documentary is that virtually all the narration and commentary is provided by descendants of Triangle workers and managers. Release of the film is accompanied by publication of a book of photos and text, The New York City Triangle Factory Fire by Benin, Linne, Sosin, and Sosinsky (Arcadia).
  • Human Terrain provides an unusual and valuable perspective on the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The film begins at the point around 2005 where some U.S. military commanders realize they are losing those wars and blame it on their troops' lack of understanding of native culture. They bring in sociologists and anthropologists to teach American soldiers about local customs. The filmmakers gained extraordinary access to training programs where young U.S. recruits do roleplaying and use video simulators to practice encounters they are likely to have overseas. They also obtained recordings of military units and their embedded social scientists engaged in field operations in Afghanistan. Social scientists who have chosen not to assist the military argue in the film that the wars are misguided to begin with and that steps like encouraging soldiers to grow moustaches so they will look more like the locals really miss the point.
  • Conviction starring Hillary Swank is a powerful feature film based on the true story of a young woman who, with the support of the Innocence Project, reversed the successful police frame-up of her brother for a murder he did not commit.
  • Waste Land is an Academy Award nominated documentary about a successful Brazilian artist living in New York who goes home to create a major art project in collaboration with garbage pickers who pull recyclable materials out of the world's largest dump. The film explores many questions about class, sustainability, personal transformation, and the nature of art.
  • The Real Cost of Repeal is an emotional 6-minute video featuring three households who describe the value of the Obama health care reforms from their own experience.
  • Qapirangajuq: Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change compiles interviews with Arctic dwellers about the effects of climate change that they are seeing.

Books

  • The Sacred White Turkey by Frances Washburn (University of Nebraska). A Lakota medicine woman and her granddaughter find a white turkey on their doorstep on Easter morning. Is it a sign of some kind, or just an unusual bird? So begins this entertaining novel about one native community.
  • Work Song by Ivan Doig (Riverhead). In the tall tale style of the Old West, this novel describes Butte, Montana, right after World War I. A newcomer to town unwillingly gets caught up in the ongoing battle between Anaconda Copper Co. and its union miners.
  • While Mortals Sleep by Kurt Vonnegut (Delacorte) is a collection of previously unpublished short stories that remind us of the late author's unique ability to write about serious issues like class and work with a light and ironic touch.
  • There is Power in a Union by Philip Dray (Doubleday). This 674-page history of industrial unions in the U.S. provides a useful introductory overview by compiling information from many other accounts in one place. Covering nearly 200 years in one volume, its weakness is that it only skims the surface of many events and barely mentions the rise of public employee unionism, rank-and-file reform movements in a number of major unions, and many other key topics.
  • Working the Night Shift by Reena Patel (Stanford University). Call centers in India are staffed primarily by women who work at night to accommodate the time difference with the U.S. and other countries. This academic study explores the social impacts.
  • My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir, photographs by Scot Miller (Houghton Mifflin). The naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club kept this journal during the summer of 1869. "When we try to pick out anything by itself," he wrote, "we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." On the hundredth anniversary of its publication in 1911, the text is matched with 72 color photos taken in recent years.
  • Making the San Fernando Valley by Laura R. Barraclough (University of Georgia). An academic traces the history of a major suburb of Los Angeles, exploring efforts to maintain white privilege in the name of preserving rural heritage – a dynamic she says is playing out in many other rural and exurban areas of the U.S.

Music

  • Steady as She Goes by Hot Tuna (Red House Records). Two of the founders of Jefferson Airplane are still making foot-tapping music, often sounding like Leon Russell, along with a few reflective tunes like "Second Chances" and "Things That Might Have Been."
  • Big Chimney is a new, smooth-sounding string band that reinterprets an eclectic selection of rock, folk, and bluegrass tunes in an EP online.
This list was compiled by TheWorkSite.org.
"And I long to see the day when Labor will have the destiny of the nation in her own hands and she will stand as a united force and show the world what the workers can do." --- Mary Harris "Mother" Jones, 1830-1930
 

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