Labor Has Made Two Grave Errors; Will It Recover?

| Podcast

Above photo: From Jacobin Magazine.

An Interview with Professor Richard D. Wolff

Labor unions have been on the decline in the United States for over fifty years, which has caused a decline in wages, working environments and overall social conditions. In other countries, a strong alliance between labor unions and social movements have brought improvements. We discuss two major mistakes that labor made in the United States that caused its decline, the recent Supreme Court decision on Janus and what workers must do now to improve their situation. We also discuss recent news and cut through the corporate media fog on major issues.

Listen here:

In the News:

Newsletter – Nationwide Protests: Pro-Immigrant or Anti-Trump?

North Korea

Farmer suicides

USA Tenth Most Dangerous for Women


Relevant articles and websites:

Supreme Court’s Fatal Attack on Public Sector Workers by Anthony DiMaggio

Janus V. Democracy by Joseph A. McCartin

Democracy at Work



Richard D. Wolff is Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst where he taught economics from 1973 to 2008. He is currently a Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, New York City.

Earlier he taught economics at Yale University (1967-1969) and at the City College of the City University of New York (1969-1973). In 1994, he was a Visiting Professor of Economics at the University of Paris (France), I (Sorbonne). Wolff was also regular lecturer at the Brecht Forum in New York City.

Over the last twenty five years, in collaboration with his colleague, Stephen Resnick, he has developed a new approach to political economy. While it retains and systematically elaborates the Marxist notion of class as surplus labor, it rejects the economic determinism typical of most schools of economics and usually associated with Marxism as well. This new approach appears in several books co-authored by Resnick and Wolff and numerous articles by them separately and together. Common to all of Professor Wolff’s work are two central components. The first is the introduction of class, in its elaborated surplus labor definition, as a new “entry point” of social analysis. The second is the concept of overdetermination as the logic of an analytic project that is consistently non-determinist. Professor Wolff was also among the founders in 1988 of the new academic association, Association of Economic and Social Analysis (AESA), and its quarterly journal Rethinking Marxism.

Since 2005, Professor Wolff has written many shorter analytical pieces focused chiefly although not only on the emerging and then exploding global capitalist crisis. He regularly published such shorter analytical pieces on the website of the Monthly Review magazine and occasionally in many other publications, both print and electronic. The wide circulation of the shorter pieces coupled with the deepening crisis brought many invitations to present work in public forums.

Especially since 2008, Professor Wolff has given many public lectures at colleges and universities (Notre Dame, University of Missouri, Washington College, Franklin and Marshall College, New York University, etc.) to community and trade union meetings, in high schools, etc. He also maintains an extensive schedule of media interviews (on many independent radio stations such as KPFA in Berkeley, KPFK in Los Angeles, WBAI in New York, National Public Radio stations, the Real News Network, the Thom Hartmann show, and so on). He has spoken at Occupations and local high schools, churches, and monthly at the Brecht Forum in New York.

Professor Wolff’s public speaking engagements and media interviews usually focus on one or more of the following topics:

a. The Current Economic Crisis: Origins and Consequences
b. Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capiatlism
c. The Current Economic Crisis and Globalization
d. Economic Crisis and Socialist Strategy
e. The Difference Among Economic Theories (Neoclassical, Keynesian and Marxian)
f. The History of the Marxian Theoretical Tradition
g. The Contemporary Relevance and Unique Insights of Marxian economics
h. A Class Analysis of the Rise and Fall of the USSR

Professor Wolff’s weekly show, Economic Update with Richard D. Wolff, is syndicated on over 70 radio stations nationwide and available for broadcast on Free Speech TV. Please contact the show’s Media Director if you are interested in syndicating the program:

Professor Wolff enjoys french cuisine and lives in New York City with his wife, Dr. Harriet Fraad. They have two adult children.

  • Niemand

    Don’t know whether Dr Wolff makes this point (I prefer to read, not listen or watch–it’s much faster) but one key is to make it impossible for union bosses to make more money than the rank-and-file. Union officers should usually get the median pay for their local, plus an independently-audited expense account, but no more. People with real commitment to the union won’t have any problem with that; it’s the crooks who’ll claim with a straight face that they deserve more regardless of what the rank-and-file gets.

  • kevinzeese

    Good point. I agree but thast was not discussed.

  • Niemand

    Pity. How can people have a punchlist for reform if the experts don’t call out the items that should be on it.

  • Jon

    Echoing the plan of the Paris Commune of 1871.

  • RB

    My union here in Ontario, Canada, gives me benefits – because it has to do something for its due-paying members in order to justify it’s existence. But it only goes through the motions. I have talked with my union rep many times when my abusive employer forced me to. He will, reluctantly, act if the company has done something clearly egregious. Otherwise, He’s not interested. Let me repeat that. NOT INTERESTED!

  • Joe Bloggs

    I’d add the progressive Democrat “victory” talking point (in reference to the West Virginia teacher strikes). The six-figure salary bosses called the strike off, top-down style. What the teachers “won” was precisely the same offer they rejected in the first place. Labor reporters got busy straightaway, cranking out lengthy nuanced analysis.

  • Joe Bloggs

    Analysis totally devoid of any mention of salary or the fact that whatever the AFT is called in WV, as well as the WVEA did nothing to coordinate nationally.