State of the Labor Movement – Can It Be Saved?
Unions in the US which were a driving force for social change in the early 20th century have been in decline for decades. Recently however union and non-union workers have been fighting for better working conditions and wages and the right to organize. Steve Early has been present for the past 40 years of labor’s struggles. His new book is titled “Save Our Unions: Dispatches from a Movement in Distress.” He joins us to talk about the current state of labor. We also speak with Traven Leyshon of the Vermont AFL CIO, Vermont Workers Center and Vermont Progressive Party.
Relevant articles and websites:
Save Our Unions Book Review
Why Passengers Cheered Vermont Bus Strike by Ellen David Friedman
Steve Early has been active as a labor journalist, lawyer, organizer, or union representative since 1972. For 27 years, Early was a Boston-based staff member of the Communications Workers of America. He finished his CWA career in 2007, after serving as administrative assistant to the vice-president of CWA District 1, which represents more than 160,000 workers in New York, New England, and New Jersey,
Early aided CWA organizing, bargaining, and/or major strikes involving NYNEX, Bell Atlantic, AT&T, Verizon, Southern New England Tel, SBC, Cingular, and Verizon Wireless. He also assisted CWA public sector organizing, plus mergers with other AFL-CIO affiliates and independent unions.
Early’s freelance journalism has appeared in The Nation, The Boston Globe, Boston Herald, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, Philadelphia Inquirer, USA Today, Toronto Globe & Mail, The Berkshire Eagle, The Progressive, CounterPunch, Beyond Chron, The Guardian, In These Times, Our Times, American Prospect, Mother Jones, Labor History, New Politics, New Labor Forum, Social Policy, Labor Notes, Labor Studies Journal, WorkingUSA, Labor Research Review, Monthly Review, Technology Review, Boston Review, Dollars and Sense, Socialism and Democracy, Democratic Left, The Guild Reporter, Jacobin, Tikkun, and Labor: Studies in Working Class History in The Americas.
He is the author of Embedded With Organized Labor: Journalistic Reflections on the Class War at Home(Monthly Review Press, 2009) and The Civil Wars in U.S. Labor: Birth of a New Workers’ Movement or Death Throes of the Old? (Haymarket Books, 2011). His new book, Save Our Unions: Dispatches from a Movement in Distress, will be published by MRP in early 2014.
Alone or with co-authors, Early has also contributed chapters to eight edited collections. Among these is an often-cited essay, “Membership Based Organizing,” in A New Labor Movement For The New Century, edited by Gregory Mantsios (Monthly Review Press, 1998); “Globalization and De-Unionization in Telecommunications: Three Case Studies in Resistance” (co-authored with Larry Cohen) in Transnational Cooperation Among Labor Unions, edited by Michael Gordon and Lowell Turner (Cornell University Press, 2000); “The NYNEX Strike: A Case Study in Labor-Management Conflict Over Health Care Cost Shifting,” in Proceedings of NYU Annual National Conference on Labor (Little, Brown &Co., 1991); “Defending Workers’ Rights in the Global Economy: The CWA Experience” (co-authored with Larry Cohen) in Which Direction For Organized Labor? edited by Bruce Nissen (Wayne State University Press, 1999) and also reprinted in Le Syndicalisme Dans La Mondialisation, edited by Annie Fouquet, Udo Rehfeldt, and Serge Le Roux (Les Editions de L’Atelier, Paris, 2000); “Strike Lessons From The Last Twenty-Five Years” in The Encyclopedia of Strikes,” edited by Ben Day, Manny Ness, and Aaron Brenner ( M.E. Sharpe, Inc., April, 2009); “The Enduring Legacy & Contemporary Relevance of Labor Insurgency,” in Rebel Rank-and-File: Labor Militancy and Revolt From Below During the 1970s, edited by Cal Winslow, Aaron Brenner, and Bob Brenner (Verso, 2009), and “Back to the Future: Union Survival Strategies in Open Shop America,” (co-authored with Rand Wilson) in Wisconsin Uprising: Labor Fights Back, edited by Michael D. Yates, (Monthly Review Press, 2012).
Early serves on the editorial advisory committees for four labor-related publications–Labor Notes, New Labor Forum, WorkingUSA and Social Policy. He is also a board member of United For a Fair Economy. He is a member of the Pacific Media Workers Guild (Freelancers Unit), an affiliate of the TNG/CWA.
Early has been a longtime backer of Jobs with Justice, the Association for Union Democracy and Teamsters for a Democratic Union. In 1992, while on loan from CWA, he was part of the Teamster headquarters transition team for newly-elected IBT President Ron Carey and other union reformers who won office in the union’s first direct election of national leaders.
Early is a graduate of Middlebury College and Catholic University Law School. He was admitted to the Vermont bar and state and federal courts in Vermont in 1976. In the 1970s, Early worked for the United Mine Workers and wrote for The UMW Journal, when it received a National Magazine Award in 1975.
Traven Leyshon is the former Secretary-Treasurer of the VT AFL-CIO, president of small central labor council, founding member of Vermont Workers Center, and formerly on leadership team of Vermont Progressive Party.