Category Archives: economy

New Film! “Clean In: How Hotel Workers Fought For a Union—And Won”

What happens when the working mothers employed as housekeepers at a Harvard-owned hotel decide to “lean in” for higher wages and better working conditions? ¿Puede la solidaridad femenina unir a las clases?

In celebration of International Women’s Day, and in solidarity with today’s Women’s Strike, The Nation Magazine has released my long-in-the-making collaboration with Sarah Leonard about a group of immigrant working mothers who sought to unionize their Harvard-owned workplace – and in doing so asked Harvard’s first female president & Sheryl Sandberg “which side are you on?”

Their story shows us what a “feminism for the 99%” might look like.

CLEAN IN is a 21min video essay featuring music by bilingual political punk band Downtown Boys and Puerto Rican shoegaze band Un.Real. It’s a companion piece to Sarah’s long-form essay, Housekeepers Versus Harvard: Feminism for the Age of Trump.

Regardless of whether or not you are striking today, I hope you might find some time to read Sarah’s essay and watch CLEAN IN.

Spoiler alert: unlike 99% of labor stories, this piece has a happy ending! It’s a genuinely inspiring tale of how creative organizing and cross-class solidarity can achieve real, concrete, material (and nonmaterial) improvements in the lives of working people.

Happy International Women’s Day!
¡Feliz Día Internacional de la Mujer!

PS: This project emerged out of a socialist feminist reading group which has deeply informed how I think about both feminism and the economy. In honor of today’s strike, members of that group have collaborated on A Women’s Strike Syllabus. Check it out!

A video guide to “Rahm’s Accomplishments”

I excerpted a couple short clips from “The School Closure Playbook” to help illustrate some of Rahm’s Accomplishments:

  • Shutting down 49 schools in predominantly minority & low income communities in 2013. “Hey Rahm, let’s face it. Your policies are racist!”

  • Forcing parents & students to plead with the school board to not shut down their schools. (Fun fact: the Walton Family Foundation funded these “community meetings” as a PR move to make it seem like the communities actually had some say in the matter. They didn’t.).

  • Manufacturing a budget crisis to justify school closures — and funneling hundreds of millions of dollars a year ($422 MILLION in 2013 alone) away from public schools & other municipal programs, and into a secretive slush fund he controls via “Tax Increment Financing.”

  • And don’t forget his buddies like Juan Rangel, campaign manager of his first mayoral run. Despite millions of dollars in state funds, Rangel managed to run the UNO Charter Network into huge amounts of debt (though his cronies in construction and maintenance did alright). He was forced to resign amidst the scandal, and later the SEC charged him with defrauding investors. (In this country, investors occasionally see justice. School children, not so much).

At ~2-3 minutes each, I hope the clips may be of use to those participating in tonight’s #OneTermRahm twitter storm. But of course you can watch the full film here.

On the Ukraine “Bailout”

O.K., $17 billion from the IMF, once the government savages its budget. Against this, Kiev has payments of $10 billion in debt service alone due this year—that is interest, not principal. With principal, Bloomberg puts the figure at $14 billion, and an additional $10 billion is due next year. It is not clear it can cover these payments even with the IMF funds.

Do you see what is going on here? The IMF’s bailout is not marked for Ukrainian social services or any other benefit to the citizenry. All that is about to be taken away, in the neoliberal style. The bailout money goes to Kiev and back out again to the Western financial institutions holding Ukrainian debt. In effect, debt held by private-sector creditors is transferred to the IMF, which uses it to leverage Ukraine into a free-market model via its standard conditionality: No austerity, no dough.

Distortions, lies and omissions: The New York Times won’t tell you the real story behind Ukraine, Russian economic collapse by Patrick L. Smith.

Useful, terrifying context to George Soros’ recent war-drum beating.

The nation will also have to find the answer to full employment, including a more imaginative approach than has yet been conceived for neutralizing the perils of automation. Today, as the skilled and semiskilled Negro attempts to mount the ladder of economic security, he finds himself in competition with the white working man at the very time when automation is scrapping forty thousand jobs a week. Though this is perhaps the inevitable product of social and economic upheaval, it is an intolerable situation, and Negroes will not long permit themselves to be pitted against white workers for an ever-decreasing supply of jobs. The energetic and creative expansion of work opportunities, in both the public and private sectors of our economy, is an imperative worthy of the richest nation on earth, whose abundance is an embarrassment as long as millions of poor are imprisoned and constantly self-renewed within an expanding population.

King, Jr., Martin Luther, 1963, Why We Can’t Wait

The growth of the human services should be rapid. It should be developed in a manner insuring that the jobs that will be generated will not primarily be for professionals with college and postgraduate diplomas but for people from the neighborhoods who can perform important functions for their neighbors. As with private enterprise, rigid credentials have monopolized the entry routes into human services employment. But … less educated people can do many of the tasks now performed by the highly educated as well as many other new and necessary tasks.

King, Jr. Martin Luther, 1967, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? pp. 197-98

Quotes via “Jobs for All”: Another Dream of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Mathew Forstater

“We don’t dispute the fact at all that Facebook (FB) and Microsoft (MSFT) would like to have more, cheaper workers,” says Salzman’s co-author Daniel Kuehn, now a research associate at the Urban Institute. “But that doesn’t constitute a shortage.”

–Josh Eidelson, The Tech Worker Shortage Doesn’t Really Exist in Bloomberg Businessweek

See also: The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) — one of the largest STEM professional organizations– reported on the Myth of the STEM Crisis last year.

How the U.S. Government Could End the Student Debt Crisis Today

If money should be owed for higher education at all, perhaps the federal government should owe us. After all, Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution entrusts the federal government with a monopoly to create, spend, and regulate money for the “general welfare of the United States.” And in the era of modern money, there’s no good economic reason for students’ pockets to be so shallow when the government’s are so deep.

As the Nobel-winning economist Paul Samuelson once acknowledged, the “superstition” that the budget must be balanced at all times is part of an “old fashioned religion,” meant to hush people who might otherwise demand the government create more money. Young people should beware of anyone who tells them that their chief worry for the future is the government’s debt, rather than their own.

How the U.S. Government Could End the Student Debt Crisis Today” by Raúl Carillo in Yes! Magazine

For amateurs and dilettantes who do not rely on their art for a living, moving to the commons has plenty of upside and little downside. For creative professionals, however, particularly those burdened by economic hardship, the risks associated with transitioning to a non-proprietary business model can feel (rightly or wrongly) prohibitive. Often times, the typical free culture advocate’s response to this concern is to either dismiss it, to reemphasize the moral case for freedom, or to point to others’ success stories as proof that “it can be done.”

We believe these responses are insufficient and miss the deeper point: no matter how feasible commons-based production may appear to those who are familiar with it, for those suffering from the paralyzing effects of systemic money scarcity – unemployment, poverty, overwhelming consumer debt – the free culture response is incomplete at best, and callous at worst.

Our proposal for addressing this issue is to combine the free culture movement’s view of the bitstream economy with the Modern Money view of the monetary economy.

Free Culture? Free Finance by The Modern Money Network (Columbia Chapter)

Support the TIF Illumination Video Project

The TIF Illumination Project is a volunteer-run investigative journalism & community education project that has done incredible work exposing one of Chicago’s most vile and complicated scams, Tax Increment Financing. TIF has resulted in the redistribution of billions of dollars away from local communities and into the coffers of developers and cronies. Please help the TIF Illumination Project produce this important video series to bring the fruits of their research to a wider audience: