Air Date 5/5/2022
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast, in which we shall take a look at the history and present of the labor movement, to demonstrate how times may change, but the fundamental struggle, including many of the exact tactics, remain the same. Plus, get ready to get excited about salts, the secret ingredient in the labor movement.
Clips today are from Rattling the Bars from The Real News Network, The Young Turks, The Zero Hour, Bloomberg Originals. And by the way, if you are surprised there's a clip from Bloomberg in a Best of the Left episode about the labor movement, just know that I am too, but you're not gonna wanna miss that one.
And there's also CounterSpin and The Majority Report, with additional members-only clips from Rattling the Bars and Jacobin.
May Day and the Haymarket Massacre Rattling the Bars - Real News Network - Air Date 5-1-23
MAXIMILLIAN ALVAREZ - HOST, REAL NEWS NETWORK: And I'm gonna just read to y'all a bit of a passage from a great article that was written in 2019 by the brilliant author Raechel Anne Jolie for the magazine In These Times - shout-out to our [00:01:00] comrades over at In These Times magazine. So, this article was called "Why May Day Continues to Capture the Hearts and Imaginations of Workers". And Raechel writes in this article, "May Day was born in Chicago in 1886. During the late 19th century, workers tired of 10 to 16 hour days and little pay began to organize along socialist and anarchist principles. Whether informal unions, political parties, or cultural groups, working class people in the United States were motivated by their dismal conditions and the hope they found in anti-capitalist ideas. With discussion about unfair working conditions spreading like a fever, the 1884 Convention of the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, or the FOTLU concluded with a declaration that "Eight hours shall constitute a legal day's labor from and after May 1st, [00:02:00] 1886". Both the FOTLU and the Knights of Labor would support strikes in demonstrations to achieve it.
When May 1st finally arrived, 40,000 workers went on strike in Chicago and over 300,000 workers across the United States walked off their jobs. For two days, rallies and demonstrations ensued without violence, but on May 3rd, police attacked and killed picketing workers at the McCormick Reaper Works plant. Labor leaders called for a public meeting to protest the deaths, set for the evening of May 4th in Haymarket Square. The events that ensued at Haymarket are fuzzy: a chaotic scene of protestors and police became the side of a bomb explosion whose source has never been proven, followed by gunshots. When things were quiet, the scene left nearly a dozen dead. The exact numbers are disputed, but the Illinois Labor History Society states that seven policemen and [00:03:00] four workers were killed.
Despite having no hard evidence on their side, the police placed blame on eight people they believed to be anarchist. Albert Parsons, August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe, Michael Schwab, George Engel, Adolf Fischer, and Louis Lingg. These charges were rooted in not only anti-anarchist and anti-communist sentiment of the time, but also deeply entrenched xenophobia. Much of the labor force was made up of immigrants, and so anarchists, communists, immigrants, and workers became easy scapegoats. Six of the eight defendants were immigrants, and seven of the eight men were found guilty and sentenced to death. Two of the men's sentences were changed to life in prison. One was exonerated and five remained to be hanged. Louis Lingg was found dead in his jail cell before the execution. And so, on November 11th, 1887, [00:04:00] Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Albert Parsons, and August Spies were hanged. May Day celebrations are meant to honor the lives of these people and the movements from which they emerged.
Now, I wanted to just, sort of like, build on that really quick and center us in the words of one of the Haymarket martyrs themselves, Albert Parsons, and then I want to get Mansa's thoughts on this. But, uh, Albert Parsons famously wrote from his cell on death row before he was hanged by the state, "And now to all I say, falter not. Lay bear the inequities of capitalism. Expose the slavery of law. Proclaim the tyranny of government. Denounce the greed, cruelty, abominations of the privileged class who riot and revel on the labor of their wage slaves". So that's really the fulcrum [00:05:00] of this sacred holiday, right? This is the furnace through which the fires of May Day were kindled and they continued to burn today.
The History of May Day - The Young Turks - Air Date 5-2-23
ANA KASPARIAN - HOST, TYT: Seven police die. Three workers die. 'Til this day, historians agree that one of the cops died as a result of the explosive device. We don't know for sure how the other police died. In fact, there are some historians who argue that they could have died from other police officers shooting their weapons. So, I guess by friendly fire. Anyway, the crazy thing about this is the business community immediately jumps in. And they say that the real martyrs here were the police. And they start erecting monuments to celebrate the police. Okay? But wait 'til you hear what happens to the monument. It's a pretty incredible story. But so far, I'm curious what you guys think. So, John, you've had some reactions already.
JOHN IDAROLA - CO-HOST, TYT: Oh, you know, uh, it's amazing. I love little details like, you know, curiously, the business community decided to [00:06:00] join in. Oh, were they opposed to the workers? Did they use this as an opportunity to point out that they're violent and irrational and you should never associate with them? That is weird. But also so much of this is deeply fascinating. And by the way, while, you know, we've done specials before, we've done shows for May Day before. Every year I go back over the history or whatever. I believe that this is actually the year where I, like, went and found the most. 'Cause it really is fascinating, not only what happened then, but the ways that people disagree about it, and the cycles that happen over the next few decades about all the different dueling monuments and where they are and when they're destroyed and it's just fascinating.
But all of it is, so, it just feels like so many other events, too. Like it's easy to hear this happened in 1883 or whatever, and you're like...
ANA KASPARIAN - HOST, TYT: It sounds like it could happen today.
JOHN IDAROLA - CO-HOST, TYT: Well, it sounds like Occupy Wall Street. It sounds like the cops trying to break up social justice rallies in 2020. Like, it sounds like a lot of cases where people finally come together to draw attention to an issue and then [00:07:00] suddenly it's not about that issue anymore. 'Everyone, everyone, please focus on the fact that they're rowdy and the cops are trying to stand between you and a gas station being burned down'. Like, we're still doing this same exact thing. The media's a little bit more sophisticated than the cops have deadlier weapons, but...
ANA KASPARIAN - HOST, TYT: Is it?
JOHN IDAROLA - CO-HOST, TYT: Um, well, in their propaganda, yeah, I think that they are more sophosticated.
ANA KASPARIAN - HOST, TYT: In their, yeah, in their propaganda there's no question in their propaganda.
JOHN IDAROLA - CO-HOST, TYT: But it reminds me a lot of recent events too. Even though it's 150 years ago. \
ANA KASPARIAN - HOST, TYT: Absolutely! I totally agree with that. I mean, it's incredible how far back in this country's history you can find examples of police squashing efforts by workers, specifically, calling attention to the injustices of our system. And that's something that you do, Senator Turner, on a regular basis both on this show and the campaign trail. So I wanted to open up the conversation to you and kinda get your thoughts on this.
NINA TURNER: Yeah, I mean, you could be telling that story in the 21st century. The more things change, the more they stay the same, unfortunately. And even bigger than the police, I mean, at least in this case, as you laid out, the [00:08:00] mayor said, Hey, things are going peacefully. Don't go in. And the rogue officers decided to go in anyway, and they caused this. They were the spark for the murders and people being trampled and that kind of thing. But even if we take the police out of it and just think about what workers are enduring right now, that over 60% of workers cannot afford to do anything but work, that they're one paycheck away from ruin, one health care away from ruin, and how workers all over this country, at least over the last five years, have really been standing up for their collective bargaining rights. And we have places like Amazon and Starbucks who are just flat out trying to start labor unions. So, that same revolutionary, we're gonna fight for our rights, we deserve better than what we're getting, we deserve to be at the collective bargaining table to stand up and fight for better wages, better work conditions, and better benefits, it is rippling right now in the 21st century, and if anything gives me hope [00:09:00] about what we're seeing right now among solidarity and workers, it is the new rise, and I call it, of workers in the 21st century, and they definitely are tracing the footsteps of workers from our past.
Labor in America - The Zero Hour - Air Date 1-21-23
HEIDI SHIERHOLZ: There are 200,000 more people represented by a union in 2022 than there were in 2021. But union density, the share of workers who are in a union covered by a union contract, that dropped from 11.6% to 11.3%, that is the lowest on record. That's about half, less than half, well under half of where it was 40 years ago. So this release, unionization numbers rose, but the density continued to decline, continued on that long-run trend. And the reason, like that sounds, how are those two things compatible? The way [00:10:00] they are compatible is pretty straightforward. Unionization rates rose, but non-union jobs were added faster. So, this is like, if you look back at 2022, we had one of the most record breaking jobs, we're still in this very record breaking jobs recovery. It was a year where we added some of the largest increases in jobs on record. We added like more than 5 million jobs in 2022. And so unionization rose, but. It just couldn't keep up with this real flood in of new jobs. And so the density went down.
RJ ESKOW - HOST, THE ZERO HOUR: You know, Heidi Shierholz, I also think it's important when we talk about 11.3% of workers unionized, I'm gonna guess that roughly half of those workers have government jobs. Is that about right?
HEIDI SHIERHOLZ: Yes.
RJ ESKOW - HOST, THE ZERO HOUR: So, I would [00:11:00] assume that, on a percentage basis, is it fair to assume that the decline percentage wise probably happened in private sector jobs?
HEIDI SHIERHOLZ: We actually saw a decline in both the rates, the density, both in the public sector and in the private sector in 2022. But you're right, the public sector has unionization rates that are about five times as high as what we see in the private sector. So, there's a lot of reasons behind that disparity, but they both saw declines, as far as union density goes, in 2022. Both the private sector and the public sector saw actual increases in the number of people covered by unions. So, that same pattern was...
RJ ESKOW - HOST, THE ZERO HOUR: Oh, interesting. Okay.
HEIDI SHIERHOLZ: Yeah, and both public sector and private sector.
RJ ESKOW - HOST, THE ZERO HOUR: So the raw numbers go up but, since there are so many more people working, the percentage drops in both cases. So, and then you talk [00:12:00] about union unionization by race and gender and this gets to, you know, I wouldn't call it a peeve, but a kind of frustration of mine that so often in the national conversation when we talk about the racial wealth gap, when we talk about the gender pay gap, these are talked about even by people who understand they represent injustices, they're talked about in a kind of vacuum when it comes to the engines that might improve those conditions. One of the biggest ones being unions. You and your colleagues have done a lot of work on unions and their impact on things like racial and gender wealth disparities. Have we seen, uh, am I on the right track here?
HEIDI SHIERHOLZ: Yes. I think unionization is so unbelievably important to this sort of larger national conversation we're having right now around, or have had in the last couple of [00:13:00] years around, racial equity. It is unambiguous that unions reduce, like, the Black-White wage gap, for example, if we just focus on that. Black workers are the, of major racial and ethnic groups, Black workers are the group that has the highest unionization rate, and that was still true in the 2022 numbers that we got today. And then the other thing is Black workers get a bigger boost to being in a union than other workers. So, for example, right now, you can calculate this thing that we call the union wage premium, which is just basically how much more on average does a union worker make than a non-union worker who has the same characteristics, who is, you know, is in the same occupation and industry, and the same locality, the same demographics. So, like how much more does a union worker make than their sort of identical peer [00:14:00] who is not a union member? And that right now, that's about 10%. So it's a sizable boost to your earnings if, like, on average, if you're in a union. For Black workers, it's 13%. It's higher. Black workers get a bigger boost to being in a union, and that's the key. That's why unions reduce the racial wage gap. They reduce, they increase wages for everyone, but they increase them more for workers of color. And so that's why unions are so important.
RJ ESKOW - HOST, THE ZERO HOUR: Thereby narrowing the gap, the income gap between the two groups. Uh, it makes perfect sense. And your report says that, of all major racial and ethnic groups, Black workers continue to have the highest unionization rates at 12.8%. That's not I suppose dramatically higher than 11.2% for white workers or 10% for Latinx workers. I'm just reading your data here. But[00:15:00] it is an increase and I think that this tracks with the union movement's history of kind of being a little bit ahead of the overall national curve on the issue racial justice and equality. Is that right?
HEIDI SHIERHOLZ: Yes, I think that's right. And I'm not at all claiming that unions have been perfect on race. I'm not, like any other major American institution almost, they, you know, have segments of the union movement have acted out racial bias in many ways, right? But if you look on net, the impact of unions on racial economic equity is absolutely crucial and positive. And the. One thing that means is the decline of unionization over the last four decades has been a core contributor to the increase in [00:16:00] the Black-White wage gap over that period.
Secret Union Tactic Fuels Unprecedented Labor Wins - Bloomberg Originals - Air Date 4-3-23
JOSH EIDELSON - REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Businesses hate salting more than they hate termites or shoplifters. Companies see salts as infiltrators.
The share of the private sector US workplace that is organized by labor unions has plummeted. The past year and a half has seen a startling shift. We've seen stunning victories at places like Amazon, Trader Joe's, Apple, Chipotle, REI, and in some ways most strikingly at Starbucks, where we've gone from zero unionized corporate-run US Starbucks to hundreds. Often salting is a key tactic in an organizing campaign. Salting means getting hired undercover at a company in order to organize there.
WILL WESTLAKE: I wanted to salt originally because [00:17:00] my mother was in the restaurant industry her whole life. Uh, she worked as a manager, was putting in 72 hour weeks. And she was diagnosed with a stage three ovarian cancer. She, like a lot of people in the service industry, didn't have healthcare. She spent most of her savings trying to fight that battle, and by the time she died, there was hardly anything left.
That's wrong, that's not the world that I want to live in. Anything that I could do to improve that was something that I was going to do.
JOSH EIDELSON - REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Salting has been a tactic used by union organizers for more than a century. The term "salting" is said to come from the idea of salting the mine when someone would put gold dust into a mine to trick a purchaser.
JAZ BRISACK: I'm [00:18:00] Jaz Brisack. My job is to help workers who don't have unions get unions. So this was the original job posting to advertise for inside organizers to come to Buffalo. We ended up having a team of about 10 inside organizers.
WILL WESTLAKE: I reached out and said, Hey, I was curious if there was something to work on this summer through Workers United. Jaz said, would you be willing to go into Starbucks in Buffalo? And I said, I'll apply right now.
JAZ BRISACK: I got myself hired by playing a role. I was incredibly passionate about Starbucks, and I was incredibly smiley, incredibly gentle in the interviews.
WILL WESTLAKE: I drafted a cover letter talking about how I believed in a future at Starbucks that involved me, just trying to capture the different check marks that managers are looking for. You know, talking about the business as a family.
JAZ BRISACK: And tried to present the most palatable employee to management that they could have, and it always works. [00:19:00] [chuckles]
JOSH EIDELSON - REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Companies of course don't like salting. Companies see salts as infiltrators who lied to them and are lying to their coworkers, and in the service of taking away the company's authority over how the business should be run.
JAZ BRISACK: I defy anyone who says that a salt is a fake barista.
So these are the drink recipe cards from Starbucks. These were the basis for training new inside organizers on how to make sure that they were up to speed on the recipes and the proportions.
The whole point of becoming an inside organizer is that you are actually able to both do the job and build the trust necessary with coworkers to be able to organize. And you can't do that by being bad at your job.
WILL WESTLAKE: You have to take some time to get to know people, build [00:20:00] relationships, and get to the place where you can start a union safely and you can actually get to a union election.
JOSH EIDELSON - REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Salting is going through a renaissance now in the United States. Advocates and experts on all sides of this have said it seems to be more people salting right now in the United States than we've seen in the past couple decades.
JAZ BRISACK: I don't think there's any company that you couldn't salt, from the United Farm Workers to the building trades, to the service industry, to manufacturing.
WILL WESTLAKE: The goal should be to organize every company.
JOSH EIDELSON - REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Union organizers, in part through effective use of the salting tactic, have pulled off spectacular victories. But none of them has a collective bargaining agreement.
JAZ BRISACK: You shouldn't have to have gone through the hell that [00:21:00] we did by the company in order to receive our rights as workers and to bargain with them. But the fact that we were able to work together in tandem meant everything. It means that now we can bargain.
JOSH EIDELSON - REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Big question is, can these workers win union contracts, and what will those contracts be?
JAZ BRISACK: Salting is one of the hardest ways to organize, but it's also the most effective way because the people who are willing to salt are the ones who are actually willing to learn a job, become one of the people, and then build a union and help organize. I think that's one of the most selfless things that people can do.
WILL WESTLAKE: We need to make sure that the majority of the workforce is better taken care of. And the best way to do that is through unionizing and getting contracts and guarantees to increase wages, increase benefits. It's worth doing, and continuing to put pressure on companies everywhere to do better by their workers.[00:22:00]
Rachel K. Jones on Mifepristone, Donna Murch on Rutgers Labor Action - CounterSpin - Air Date 4-21-23
JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: You know, news media seem to virtually always reduce any striking workers' demands to more money, you know?
DONNA MURCH: Exactly.
JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: But you're articulating it in a much more complicated and interesting, frankly, context. Workers compensation isn't something that happens in a vacuum. And here at Rutgers, nevermind wider society, but here at Rutgers, it's priorities in terms of the use of resources that are at issue. Right?
DONNA MURCH: Absolutely. I think this point about wages is incredibly important because first, I've been thinking a lot about why this movement is emerging now and what its relationship was, even to the world that I grew up in, which was I was still coming of age under the Cold War in the seventies and eighties. And the attack on the labor movement was [00:23:00] so profound. And it happened at a time when also the composition of labor unions is changing, of organized labor itself, and becoming more female, Blacker and Browner. And it's in this period that we actually begin to see the real strikes at the public sector.
And those two things are happening simultaneously for multiple reasons. But you know, I always think of George Meany, the first head of the AFL-CIO, who said the organized fellow is the fellow that counts. And that was the kind of unionism that, first of all, sacrificed all sections of labor and supported anti-communist Cold War violence all over the country, including Vietnam. But the domestic focus was on a unionism for the most elite workers, white and male and craft.
So today, it's interesting because the university itself is also trying to push us towards wage demand. The thing that's made the [00:24:00] union strong is trying to speak to each job category and to privilege the lowest paid, and that includes the adjunct workers and the graduate faculty and the EOS counselors.
So you have tenure track faculty using -- and we're all doing this using tenure -- to fight for the contingent categories of labor. So in that sense, It's a really exciting thing. But whenever I talk to reporters, and I've done a lot of media work, I do this work of -- of course you already knew -- but trying to explain to them why we need to focus on other demands, that industrial campaigns are really hard. This is the first strike, and I think we're having all these job categories is great for building power, but when you come to the bargaining table, you confront the long history of really anti-labor union practices, and I think I've learned many things. Of course, we're still in the midst of it. You asked where we are now. This is, what, Thursday? So it is the fourth day of our suspension. [00:25:00] You don't include the weekend. So I think there's gonna be a discussion tonight where we get updates from the bargaining table and decide if we're going to resume the strike.
There are reasons to resume the strike. There are many demands that we would still like to win, including better language and structures for our non-economic proposals, including five years of graduate funding that's centrally funded, and are bargaining for the common good demand to serve communities in New Jersey and fight for undergraduate debt relief.
So we'll see. You know, it's very important to know that our strike is suspended, not ended. And that we may go back on strike depending on what the union decides. We do not yet have a tentative agreement. But being involved in this process and seeing bargaining, what I always thought was bargaining is that the problem were people that had narrow demands, but seeing people that I know very well and respect a great deal, both were bargaining, [00:26:00] it just shows me that we're having a powerful resurgence of labor organizing. But we're still confronting the narrowness of the possibilities, and we're trying to squeeze ourselves through those narrow panels and widen them, hopefully for all workers. Just as the Chicago Teachers Union, the UTLA Teachers Union in Los Angeles, the Red Tide in Oklahoma and in West Virginia, widens the tide for us.
JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: One of the reasons that I know that people are seeing what's happening at Rutgers as super hopeful is, first of all, the win, the concrete win of increased wages for some folks, and acknowledgement and visibility. But it's also the coalitional nature of the work. Tenured professors standing in solidarity with grad students, with researchers [00:27:00] and teachers, and then also students, who are refusing the frame that some politicians and some media are using that suggests that their interests are pitted against those of faculty. The breadth of this effort has been important, hasn't it?
DONNA MURCH: It has. I think it's been incredibly important. And this is the way to build power.
I also think that one thing that I find exciting about Rutgers is that we all know about the incredible social inequality in the US and how it's getting worse day by day. And the only solution I see for this is greater labor organizing, period. And I've been involved in many different kinds of activism throughout my life. But I decided to really get involved in the union movement around 2015, 2016, because I saw clearly the rise of racial fascism, the election of Trump. And then later I was in [00:28:00] Brazil right after Bolsonaro was elected. And it was one of the most frightening experiences that I've had. And it wasn't because I saw things that were frightening; it had to do with the level of fear of the people that I was visiting, some of whom had had family members killed in the military dictatorship. So I think that the labor unions now, you know, real left labor unions like the kind we had before Taft-Hartley, are really important for economic gains and also as political opposition.
Labor in America Part 2 - The Zero Hour - Air Date 1-21-23
HEIDI SHIERHOLZ: No, that's a, I that's a very good question. I think that it's, there's. The reason behind the decline in unionization in recent decades, it isn't because workers don't want or need unions, which I think is a big myth out there. It is. I mean, if you look at the survey data, a huge share of non-union workers wanna be in a union.
Um, the reason is just because of relentless attacks on [00:29:00] unionization, and that has. You know, it taken the form many forms, one of which is relentless employer attacks on union organizing and. The law has not kept up to like level the playing field to make it more to, to make it so workers truly have the right to unionize.
The law has, has not, you know, the, our fundamental labor law was passed in 1935. Employers have changed their tactics a lot over that period. Right. And the law just hasn't kept up to make it. So we workers really do have the true right to organize. So we have just so many. Workers who wanna be in a union who aren't able to, because policy makers have not done their job to level the, you know, past laws that level the playing field, I think, um, prior to this administration, that that wasn't just, you know, that was happening on both sides of the aisle that you didn't, [00:30:00] you saw, um, both Democrats and Republicans, um, Not doing the things that needed to be done to support unions over that period.
We see that changing Now, the, um, Biden administration has, you know, talked about unions, used the bully pulpit, prioritized unions in a way that I have never seen, you know, in my. You know, awareness of these things. Um, so it does seem like there's a change. There's, there's this sort of broader kind of awakening of the importance to a fair economy of workers being able to, you know, join together with our coworkers to make collective demands.
Um, it's a long time coming.
RJ ESKOW - HOST, THE ZERO HOUR: Well, I, I agree. And, and people are talking about it more. Of course. I would love to see whether it's, A revival of the Employee Free Choice Act or some kind of legislation or, uh, gonna be tougher now, [00:31:00] but, uh, something concrete to make it easier for workers to organize. And I think, I mean obviously you're an economist, uh, not a political scientist, but I would think that, uh, it would also be politically, Uh, extremely popular to do so.
Yeah. Be because as, uh, uh, you know, I wish I'd seen your tweets. You, uh, you sent some tweets, which answered the questions I have. When I began re reading your report, I had to scroll down to figure it out. Uh, and that's at h shear holes, uh, that H S H I E R A. H, I'm sorry. H S H I E R H O L Z. Uh, you have a tweet about a series of tweets about this report and one of the items that struck me, and I just say, how did they figure that out?
But you explained is evidence suggests that in 2022, more than 60 [00:32:00] million at six oh million workers wanted to join a union, but couldn't. That, to me, that's a movement in waiting.
HEIDI SHIERHOLZ: Yeah. Yeah. So it, that's totally right. I can, I can go into the calculations if we want, but I'll talk about the, the, the. Policy side of this for a second.
Um, so there is this really important piece of legislation called the Pro Act, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act. It is really good. It would take a, you know, it would, it would do so much to improve, you know, really make it so workers, truly have workers who want to be in a union would be able to be in union.
Like really protects the right to unionize. Um, It passed the house in a, this house, you know, the house, the last house, not this one, but on a, on a bipartisan basis. Like it has it, you know, it had support. Um, of course it, it's not gonna [00:33:00] make it through the Senate. It didn't make it through the Senate filibuster and the last, um, Congress, and it's not going to go anywhere in this one.
So it really is a matter of, um, Things are kind of stalled because of Congress, um, cuz of the makeup of Congress. Right now, at the federal level, there are things that can be done at the state level. There's some restrictions, um, for what's possible, like, but the, like for example, there's many states where public sector workers don't have the right to bargain collectively.
States can pass laws to make that. To make that possible. We know that our national labor law, the National Labor Relations Act, Doesn't cover some groups of workers, like farm workers. States can cast laws that, um, cover farm workers for give farm workers collective bargaining rights. So there's things that [00:34:00] states can do while the national government is, is it's sort of locked on this.
Um, but we really do need. We really do need that fundamental reform at the federal
RJ ESKOW - HOST, THE ZERO HOUR: level
Union Organizing 101 Building Class Solidarity Every Day - The Majority Report - Air Date 1-22-18
SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Let me ask you this, okay? Because you're saying "we," and I'm sitting here in my studio. I assume it looks like, in your mind as an organizer, one of those telephone trees. And the end of that tree, I guess the leaves or the bottom of the roots of the tree, is the people who are working on that shift. And then there's one or two people who work on that shift who are the ones who are getting the petition. And then you pull back a little bit and there's a couple of people who are helping those people on that shift. Are what we talking about, is it directed only at people who are actually in unions? What if I'm outside of a union and I wanna help, but I'm just sitting here showing up and, I don't know, I'm running the board at Sam's [00:35:00] podcast. What do we do in that situation? How is this just basically focused on people who are already in an existing union?
JANE MCALEVEY: No no no. It's a terrific question. So two things. One is, you Sam are literally doing what you should be doing, I think, by having me and other people, including Geohegan and Stanley and others who are still talking about the working class, like on your show. Good. Great. Good job. But like discussing the working class in this country is an important topic, which seems to have just evaporated.
I've spent my life helping workers form unions. So it's not just about people who have a union. It's that there's two different things happening. There's several things here. One is, that's for people who have a union, for people who have a union already. There's several important strategic choices, and that's what I'm really trying to outline in No Shortcuts, though in some ways, for workers who are in unions, I think my first book, Raising Expectations and Raising Hell is a better explanation of how to do the work, in the shop on the ground. The second book is a slightly more theoretical approach to it.
But so I think for people who have unions, we have to save what's left of what we have. That's one [00:36:00] thing. So if you're in a union, trying to force a dialogue about how do we shift from business unionism into a more direct action sort of organizer, more collective mass collective action approach to solutions, that's crucial, because that's actually what's gonna save a trade union that currently exists once the Janus ruling comes down. It's by building, it's by structuring the work in such a way -- that you just picked it up in this phone tree example -- it's by structuring a way that we actually encourage conversations to happen daily among workers in the workplace. So that's one thing. Now for workers --
SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Can I just add too, can I just add one thing? The analogy that strikes me is that -- and I've come to learn in this business what I'm doing -- that we'll put out a YouTube video, because it will function both as marketing (and maybe we'll make some money off it) and that to me seems like the equivalent of that petition thing -- every action you take should both be there's value in it as an expression of power, but there's also [00:37:00] value in it and that it's building, I don't wanna say marketing, but it, but the equivalent of it is deepening the roots that are there for something later.
JANE MCALEVEY: Absolutely, positively. So part of what I say is that what organizers do, I say this actually somewhere in both of my books, when I get up in the morning, here's what I think about when I'm working with workers: what I think about every single day is how am I gonna get people to have meaningful conversations today? That's it. So you just nailed it.
So the petition, go back to that petition. I've spent half my life writing two sentence petitions and people are like, why do you write these little short petitions? I'm like, because the point is not the petition, although the petition does have to have meaning.
So people wouldn't just sign a petition for no reason. So that example of, someone at the boss on the third shift is doing something wrong, and instead of just filing a grievance, we're gonna say, Hey, let's go get the one- or two-line petition that says so-and-so is breaking the contract; we want to demand that they actually enforce our agreement. It both has an immediate impact because in fact we do need to fix that problem, but it's actually having the longer term [00:38:00] impact of building solidarity among those workers in that shift. And that's exactly what we have to do.
So your analogy I think is terrific. It's just, it's not quite marketing but it's actually it's building solidarity. When I wake up in the morning, when I say to workers when I'm giving speeches is you have to wake up in the morning and think, how is every action I'm taking today building class solidarity? That's literally what I wake up thinking about every day. How is every single action I'm engaged in, whether it's a contract negotiation, whether it's forming a new union, whether it's the political process, I can go right to the political process in most unions. Let's stick with people who have unions and let's get people who don't since most don't.
Continuing the logic of those people who have unions, I'm struck all the time by the fact that most unions don't allow, for example, all workers into negotiations. I was trained to let every worker who wants to come. That's one of the reasons that we built a really high participation union in a right-to-work state in Nevada, cuz we just opened the doors. We just started to break all these weird cultural norms in unions and say if we're gonna try and build a high participation union, we can't have a closed door approach to [00:39:00] negotiations.
On politics, how do political endorsements happen in most unions? In most unions today, some little subcommittee, maybe it's the executive board, maybe it's the political director, some hired, guy, usually, frankly, maybe it's some subset of the executive board, just goes off and cuts some deal and makes an endorsement decision, and then people wonder why their members are quote unquote, apathetic about the political process. In the union that I led in Nevada, the endorsement process was, just like collective bargaining, wide open. So we'd say, we'd put out a giant message and the way that we put out messages was not relying on social media and not relying on a flyer. You would do that, but you'd rely on those phone tree people to say, Hey, the endorsements are coming up for the county commission or the governor's race, or whatever it is. Everybody is welcome. And if the candidates don't come and talk to our members, they're not gonna get endorsed. And once they do come, it's gonna be a vote by the members in the room about who we're gonna endorse.
So that's consistent with the idea that if you're trying to build power, you wake up in the morning and you think, how is every action I take in the union building participation and building class solidarity? [00:40:00] That's an approach to the work that organizers have.
May Day and the Haymarket Massacre Rattling the Bars - Real News Network - Air Date 5-1-23
MAXIMILLIAN ALVAREZ - HOST, REAL NEWS NETWORK: We can share our final thoughts on Mayday and why folks should continue to fight that Mayday represents. And fight it for all poor, working and oppressed people. Very much including people who are incarcerated.
Because as we've said our struggles are fundamentally intertwined and our enemies are fundamentally one and the same, or they are working very closely together to exploit and oppress us. And I think you're absolutely right: it's so important to underline for people that -- cuz I think like when, especially people on the left talk about the history of Mayday and the Haymarket affair, and the Haymarket martyrs, obviously we focus on the fact that they were socialists, communists, anarchists. They had a more left understanding of the system that they were toiling under. [00:41:00] But we have to understand, as you said, that the ground swell that brought so many people to Haymarket Square in the first place, that brought so many people in 1886 to walk off the job, was fundamentally the fight for an eight hour day. It was the fight against dying on the job because you were working with unsafe machinery that would tear your limbs off. It was trying to keep children out of the factories. So many of these enduring struggles that we are now, as you said, either we're fighting again or we never stop fighting.
As we speak, there are Republican ghouls in state houses like in Iowa, Arkansas, and Ohio, who are literally rolling back child labor laws. Because they don't wanna pay adult workers what they deserve and actually ensure a comfortable, dignified life for their employees. Rather than do that, they're just gonna try to expand the labor pool of cheap labor. So children, they're trying to raise the [00:42:00] retirement age, and of course they're gonna continue to use prison labor.
And so all that to say that the reason that Haymarket became such a flashpoint for so many people is because the movement grew out of the grassroots of people working, people demanding better. But what the socialists, anarchists, and communists sort of politics that were wrapped up in that, I think why they're so important, is because they provided people with a vision for understanding the nature of that exploitation and what needed to be done about it.
Because if you have that sort of mindset, as you often say, then you understand that this kind of exploitation that we're fighting, in 1886 and now, it's not a bug, it's a feature of capitalism. So you you have to upend this system. As Albert Parsons famously said in that quote that I read [00:43:00] at the beginning, you have to call this shit out. You have to understand that the system's not gonna reform itself, that it is bloodthirsty, that it will drain everything it can out of you and out of our society. And we're now talking about that same system killing the planet that we all depend on.
And I don't know, I think that the cause is more urgent than ever. But I think the spirit is very much eternal and stretches all the way back to like what Kooper Caraway said, the first time one human had to serve another to survive. As long as that inequality exists, as long as the capacity for exploitation exists, and the ruthless destruction of lives and bodies and nature, we have more to do. We have more to fight for. And so I hope that on this Mayday we continue to keep fighting and to remember what it is we're actually fighting for.
Bonus: May Day and the Haymarket Massacre Part 3 - Rattling the Bars, Real News Network - Air Date 5-1-23
MANSA MUSA - HOST, RATTLING THE BARS: So when, so that prisoner has tried to unionize in Jackson, [00:44:00] Michigan. Prisoners tried to unionize in North Carolina, prisoners tried to unionize and, and that case went always to Supreme Court. And Supreme Court basically said that under the 13th Amendment, you don't have no right.
So if you don't have no right, then you don't have the right to like union. That's almost like the dread Scott decision saying, well, like you, The reason why you can't sue or the reason why you, cuz you're not considered human being. You considered property. So when you in a prison that's comp, you don't have no right to unionize because you're not considered a, a, a person that's relative to be in a union.
Mm-hmm. You considered chattel. Mm-hmm And that's the whole thing within prisons. That's what comp, it's very important that the labor movement understand it because, If you don't agree with, uh, what a person is locked up for, you have to accept this reality that the industry that got controlled over is going to take a job from you and can take it from [00:45:00] you because they got endless cheap labor and they don't have to pay them.
The same thing Medicaid. Medicare. They don't have to take no money out for their taxes in terms of, for them. They don't have to say they, they being taxed by currently, but they don't have to put no money aside for their quarters. So they ain't gotta worry about social security. A person been locked up 48 years like myself.
Mm-hmm. I ain't got no I, it'll take me a hundred years to get my quarter. I been out at the rate I gotta work. Mm-hmm. So this, this is, this is the, uh, the problem that's associated with when we think about. Mayday and, and we should, and we in this country should not say Labor Day. That should be like, we should always say mayday.
And the reason why we should say mayday, it's the same way as you were saying, is we were saying this country July the fourth, it's got the same implication as July the fourth. Mm-hmm. If July, July 4th is considered Independence Day for United States, then Mayday is considered the day that people [00:46:00] decided to stand up.
For their rights and the humanity and, and get to understand the means of production that their controlled and that means of production's not controlled over them.
MAXIMILLIAN ALVAREZ - HOST, REAL NEWS NETWORK: Hell yeah. I love the way you put that and, and I think like you really teased out, right, two really important pillars, right? That, that hold up this sort of mutually beneficial system of capitalist exploitation mm-hmm.
And the prison industrial complex, right? So both, as we said, Kind of serve intimate functions that help the other. Right. And so when it comes to building up this massive prison industrial complex, as we have in the United States, we imprison more, uh, a greater percentage of our population mm-hmm. Than any other country in the world.
We got over 2 million people, uh, locked away as we speak. You yourself, as you said, you were locked up for 48 years. [00:47:00] Um, and in that time did a lot of. Free or near free labor, um, without any of the actual basic human rights that other workers have or should have in this country. And so, like even just there, we see, like I said, these kind of two essential functions that the prison industrial complex serves for the benefit of capitalism One, um, prisoners themselves, you know, people who are incarcerated.
Provide, uh, not necessarily willingly, right? Mm-hmm. But like you're forced to provide in many cases. Um, Exceedingly cheap. Basically slave labor for, uh, not just like federal contractors or the federal government itself, but also a lot of private industry. That's right. Right. I mean, companies like Whole Foods have been using prison labor like, I, trust me, dear Rattling the bars, viewers and listeners, like, you'll be shocked to learn how [00:48:00] many corporations in the US and outside use and exploit.
Prison labor in the United States to help their bottom line. And so, like you said, while people who aren't incarcerated and members of the working class are kind of always pointing their fingers at each other and saying, oh, immigrants are stealing our jobs. Exactly. Undocumented workers are still our jobs.
Non-union workers are stealing our jobs. Exactly. And it's just like, As we always say at the real news, other workers are not your fucking enemy. That's right. It's, it's the capitalists who are taking your job and shipping it, uh, overseas where they can exploit, you know, workers in East Asia or South America or Africa, and they're not gonna pay them better.
They're gonna pay them less, and they're gonna pocket the difference. They're doing the same thing. With prisons. And so you have like this permanent source of cheap, near free labor that can continually suppress wages, um, outside of the prisons. Mm-hmm. So [00:49:00] that's one crucial function that the prisons serve.
Now the other. Is that, uh, as, as marks and, and, and others wrote about, you know, so doggedly is that when you live in a capitalist society that is so unkind to the plight of poor and working people, it creates this sort of cruel incentive structure where working people are. Compelled, um, by hunger, they're compelled by the need to, you know, provide housing for themselves.
Mm-hmm. In a society that doesn't consider housing a human right, people have to buy groceries and, and feed themselves and their families. Uh, in a society that does not, um, think that it has to provide those things for other people. Um, like there's so many like ways that under capitalism we are kind of pushed into low wage work because we have to survive.
That's right. But [00:50:00] on top of that, Um, we also live in a society that criminalizes poverty. Yeah. And so if you, you know, we're seeing it right now from Eric Adams in New York to the, the, you know, bat shit stuff going on in California and San Francisco. Like people are calling for, you know, mass imprisonment of, of unhoused people.
Mm-hmm. Um, And, and like that's our solution to like, so the people who can't make it under capitalism, the answer is shuttle them into prisons. And so in both cases, the prison industrial complex serves this sort of essential function for. The needs of capital.
Bonus: Jane McAlevey on Deep Organizing - Jacobin - Air Date 12-10-18
JANE MCALEVEY: There's 66 nurses in a unit called Telemetry, and the telemetry unit ran the anti-union campaign during the union election. So now we're in contract negotiations. We're trying to figure out we've gotta win over telemetry or the nurses understand that we can't get. Anywhere close to a 90% or [00:51:00] north of 95% of a thousand nurses ready to walk out in a strike in this hospital so that they can make profound positive change in their life, which is what winning a good union contract can actually do.
So we've gotta figure out how to move the telemetry unit. We began to make a plan, which was to try and understand which nurses seem to have the most respect among their colleagues in the telemetry unit. Because it's the nurses ultimately, who actually have the most respect among their colleagues, who are gonna have the best possibility to bring along the rest of their coworkers to shift from an anti-union position to a pro-union position.
Um, so we began to dig into the work, uh, which nurses knew which nurses. We began to build real social relationships. And I am now talking about the kind of social relationships. That we're describing when we think about Facebook or Twitter feeds or Instagram or social media, I mean in real life, what were the actual relationships [00:52:00] among and between the nurses, the 66 nurses in the telemetry unit?
This was like a daily work for all of us, meaning all the nurses. We would sit together and figure out who listened to who. Who carpooled with who? Who sat together in the break room, who came down to the cafeteria together, how many came down to the cafeteria together, who had the largest number of colleagues sitting with them if they were able to actually get a lunch break.
And what we concluded was that there was one very important nurse on the day shift, and that day shift nurse was named Marnet Payne Marnet. Had literally unfortunately led the vote no campaign to the union several months earlier. So most of the nurses were sort of throwing up their hands and thinking, well, Jane, I mean, how are we ever gonna move Marna Payne, right?
She actually led the anti-union campaign. We can't move Marna Payne from a hardcore anti-union position to a super pro-union position. Um, and in fact, They do. So how do they do [00:53:00] it? They begin to work with Marnet Payne to try and figure out what's the one, two, or three things that Marnet Payne really wants to change about her day job at the hospital that she can't actually change on her own.
Now, the parallel to this, there's a really interesting, um, process happening, which is that one nurse from telemetry and one nurse only, a nurse named Liz Miller, um, had been coming to our meetings. Uh, this whole time, the entire time, one nurse outta 66 was showing up at union meetings. Liz Miller, uh, she is the type of human being that I think everyone would love if they met her.
Um, she sings, she can pull out a guitar. She is the Pennsylvania State Chapter leader of the National Songwriters Association. She's funny. She's a feminist. She remembers and tells stories about when the nurses walked into the management teams in the late 1970s and said, we're not coming to work in skirts anymore.
Okay. She can get the whole room laughing. Unfortunately, what Liz Miller couldn't do [00:54:00] was get any of her coworkers to come to take high risk and challenge Marnet Payne, and decided they were gonna challenge their employers and become pro-union. In the context of organizing this plays out. Constantly, uh, in our country.
So how do we get Marnet Payne, who holds the respect to her coworkers and who becomes a linchpin in our strategy for the nurses to change their lives as up against someone named Liz Miller, who's like an activist in telemetry. Liz Miller is a classic and wonderful, beautiful activist in this story. She just can't get anyone to do anything.
She's willing, she's ready. She comes to every meeting, but she can actually produce the majority membership of the telemetry unit. That we believe that Marna Payne on the day shift can, and Marna again, is anti-union. Uh, so what happens over the next several weeks is that the nurses dig in. They think through every single relationship that every single nurse has to Marna Payne, they figure out what is the one thing that Marna Payne wants to win or change [00:55:00] in her unit that she cannot change by simply requesting it nicely with a smile on her face of top management.
We find out that that one thing is literally. Not being mandated to take call. Now, for folks who don't know what call is, call means that nurses have no private time in their lives. They leave hospitals and the boss can call them at any time. Like literally, you're on call, so you can't go to dinner, you can't hang out with your friends, you can't have a cocktail.
You can't do all the normal things that people want. You can't go hiking, you can't beat your phone down. And the telemetry nurses like the rest of the nurses in the hospital, were all being routinely put on call. Once the nurses understood that the single most important issue to Marnay Payne for her and people in her unit in telemetry was that they no longer wanted to have to be mandated to stay on call.
Uh, the nurses had their in, they had the issue that they could begin to work with Marne on. Uh, and to make a long story short, after a ton of face-to-face conversations in the cafeteria, in the break rooms at the time clock, uh, all sorts of nurses mapping all of their [00:56:00] relationships to Marna, Marna Payne.
Literally one day rings up a coworker and says, I'm ready to sign the union membership card. At the point at which Marnay Payne was prepared to flip from being anti-union to pro-Union, we actually said to her that very day, it's not enough for you Marnet to just sign the card though. We understand it's a really important day in your life.
You're gonna have to actually get the other 65 nurses in your unit day shift and night shift themselves to sign union membership cards. Could we believe you're the only one who can do it at this point? Marne Payne, within 14 hours had a majority of the nurses in her unit signed up on union membership cards and would go on two and a half months later to become the leader of the vote yes to strike authorization at Einstein Medical Center.
And we go on to win an amazing contract at Einstein in December of [00:57:00] 2016. That's organizing and that happens by no other means that nurses themselves. Taking direct action face-to-face, methodically forgetting about Facebook, forgetting about tweeting, and actually engaging in really hard conversations with each other about real issues and making a change.
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today starting with Rattling the Bars, telling the story of the origin of May Day. The Young Turks compared the violence against the early labor movement with more recent attacks on activists by police. The Zero Hour discussed the current state of the unionization movement. Bloomberg Originals, of all places, explained the labor tactics of "salts" who go undercover to help unionize workers. Totally badass. CounterSpin dove into the story of the labor organizing happening at Rutgers University. The Zero Hour detailed how the law has not kept up with the relentless attacks on labor unions. The Majority Report spoke with Jane McAlevey [00:58:00] about the nuts and bolts of labor organizing. And Rattling the Bars brought it all back around with a reminder of what May Day and the labor movement is all about.
That's what everybody heard, but members also heard bonus clips from Rattling the Bars, diving in a bit on the role of child and prison labor in undercutting labor power, and Jacobin featuring Jane McAlevey telling a very inspiring story about one particular union organizing effort.
To hear that and have all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support, or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship, membership because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. And now, we'll hear from you, and the message I have for you today came in relatively soon after the JK Rowling episode published, but I managed to not hear it until today. I just didn't check my messages for a week and a half, I guess. [00:59:00] It's gently critical of the episode, and I wish I had played it earlier because I wouldn't want anyone to think that I held it back intentionally or anything, but better late than ever.
Nuances to add to the JK Rowling episode - Soph
VOICEMAILER SOPH: Hi Jay. This is Self, I'm calling because I was disappointed in your recent episode on JK Rowling. Uh, I appreciate that you took on the important work of drawing out the close relationship between transphobia and fascism, both historically and at present. Unfortunately, while you were pointing in the right direction, I think the episode felt shortened a lot of places.
For example, you said that j Rowling doesn't distinguish between the authoritarianism of Mya. List and the supposed authoritarianism of left-wing protestors. I disagree. She's vocal in support of right-wing extremists, like self-identified fascists, Matt Walsh as well as Magdalene Burns, who herself was vocal in support of Milo specifically.
Rowling hasn't failed to distinguish. She supports the authoritarians and mischaracterizes their [01:00:00] opponents as authoritarian. Overall, I got the impression that you might not be, uh, well attuned to some anti-trans dog whistles. For example, the framing of the debate was pervasive in the episode, which left me a little on edge listening because the trans debate is itself a term used to dehumanize trans people.
Uh, it's a framework where we cease to be people and instead become the debate, a debate. I also want to add that the day after the episode was published, Natalie when published her most recent YouTube video in which she also discussed Megan Phelps Roper's podcast and her role in it. The video is well worth watching, but important here is that Natalie said she felt used and asked why would anything about this podcast be the way it is if Megan didn't fundamentally believe that JK Rowling is in the right, obviously you couldn't have included that in.
Episode it came out after yours, but felt was important to get that perspective, uh, presented to you and your audience. I [01:01:00] would really like to end though on something you said that I found incredibly uplifting. One of the most powerful things I've heard in a long time. You said it is inescapable that trans and non-binary people have always existed.
Our fundamental problem is that we built the structures of society while pretending they didn't. So now we're stuck with a mismatch between the reality of trans people existing and our social and political traditions of pretending they don't. Instead of the current debate over which bathroom, trans and non-binary people should use, imagine we got to wipe the slate clean.
Build our society with the understanding that they're not just two rigidly defined genders at all, so that individuals within a given gender have wildly different experiences in socializations. Then how would we design our social fabric, build our physical structures, and design our politics?
I don't have the answers to that, but I find it liberating to imagine a world where we get to design for the reality of our needs as society rather than the mismatched [01:02:00] perceptions we were given. Me too, Jay. good work. Bye-bye.
Final comments on framing arguments in defense of trans lives
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: If you'd like to leave a comment or question of your own to be played on the show, you can record or text us a message at 202-999-3991 or send an email to [email protected].
Now, thanks to Soph for those thoughts. I think there were two main points there, though it sounded like she may have been holding back a few more criticisms. You know, probably well founded ones. The first is the one where there's a sliver of daylight between our two perspectives. That's the idea of whether Rowling is actively supporting one form of fascism while thinking that she's calling out another. I certainly take Soph's point that Rowling actively promotes and supports people who are definitely fascists. That's what makes the irony of her comments opposing what she sees as authoritarianism on the left, so juicy. However, the sliver of daylight of difference in how I would describe that [01:03:00] is that I'm trying to start my argument by taking Rowling at her own word and breaking it down from there. Whereas Soph is jumping to the implications of Rowling's words and actions.
So, to take an extreme example, though not that extreme, given the number of fascists involved in this conversation, I've always heard stories that I've never bothered to fact check about Hitler being vegetarian and loving animals. I don't know if that's true, but let's pretend it is for a minute. If Hitler was tweeting about his love of animals and condemnations of eating meat, then someone from PETA could theoretically retweet that while believing that they're not supporting fascism, right? You could imagine a person separating those two ideas. That's where I enter the conversation and take Rowling at her word that she is universally against authoritarianism and that her ideological alignment with a bunch of fascists is simply [01:04:00] incidental. So I take her at her word and then tried to prove her wrong from there.
Now, if you're thinking that this level of hair-splitting belongs squarely in the who-gives-a-shit? category, I hear you and you're basically right, but I'm trying to build an argument that I hope stands up to scrutiny. And it's a slightly more solid foundation to begin with a person's own words rather than the implications of those words.
Soph took the other route of looking at the implications of what it means to support the ideas that fascists espouse. Soph may say about that PETA member retweeting Hitler's dog videos or whatever, that they're effectively supporting fascism by lending credence to Hitler. And that's true. It's just that there's a difference between the result of a person's actions and how that person sees themselves and their intentions.
If that PETA member believes in their own head that they can retweet Hitler and oppose fascism, [01:05:00] then they'll see Soph's framing as an unfair misrepresentation. If you accuse someone of supporting fascism by retweeting Hitler's dog videos, they could say, Hey, that's unfair. I don't support extermination camps and all that. I just think he has a great perspective on animal welfare. But in Rowling's case, she says, Hey, hey, hey, I may be retweeting a bunch of Nazis who want to exterminate trans people, but I don't support that. I just think they have some really solid thoughts on the sanctity of women's sports or, you know, whatever it is she's actually promoting.
So, that doesn't mean that Soph doesn't have a solid point. She does, but it's just my strategy of how to construct an argument that explains why I don't use that line of argument.
In the Natalie Wynn video on the ContraPoints YouTube channel about the witch trials of JK Rowling that Soph referenced, it's pointed out that a publication reported that Rowling had equated trans people [01:06:00] with Death Eaters, and they were quickly met with a takedown order from a lawyer because Rowling didn't equate trans people with Death Eaters, but rather the trans rights movement. Not that that helps her argument all that much. That's basically a distinction without much of a difference, but it's an example of how very slightly misrepresenting an opponent's argument opens the door to a mud slinging war over who's misrepresenting who while obscuring the important matters underneath that you're actually trying to address.
Soph's second point was about the framing of a trans debate in general, which is a point that is very well taken. It's similar to the dog whistle argument over education indoctrination, which is ramped in the US right now, which, uh, and we talked about it on a bonus show for members a few months back. Indoctrination is the buzzword for saying, basically, you don't want us to be able to debate whether it's okay to be [01:07:00] gay or trans anymore. And they're right. That is exactly it. I want to put the existence and full humanity of all people in the LGBTQ community outside the realm of debate, in just the same way that we refuse to debate whether women should be the property of their fathers or husbands, or whether White people are a genetically superior race of people. We don't entertain those debates anymore, and one day, hopefully soon, we won't entertain the debate of the full humanity of trans people. But by even referring to the debate, this is sort of Soph's point as I understand it, by even referring to the debate as though there is a debate, it sort of normalizes and helps perpetuate it. Whereas refusing to dignify that framing at all helps to bring it to an end. As I said, point very well taken. The tricky part as a communicator is that you often get stuck using whatever [01:08:00] terms and language already exist, and anything that is due for an update or a critique that you're not personally aware of, you just end up using it and perpetuating without realizing that you've done anything unhelpful.
This is an interesting example of that because, on one hand, I was very aware that ending the debate was a major part of the goal, and yet I probably continued to use that term not thinking too much about it since I was spending a lot of time describing a real phenomenon of opposing sides giving their opinion. So, you know, in a neutral sense, that's technically a debate, but is it necessarily a debate with two valid perspectives that deserve to be framed as a debate? Maybe not so much, at least not at the core where it's people's humanity that's in contention.
Soph said she was on edge listening to the episode because of my use of the debate framing, and I completely get that. That's exactly the kind of skepticism that I expect for people to [01:09:00] have when listening to a topic like that, because I know that I don't know everything and I am likely to screw something up. So, as I published that episode, I had a sort of reverse of that kind of on-edge feeling, thinking about people like Soph who would be listening and saying to myself, Oh boy, I hope I didn't fuck this up too much.
So, it's only reasonable that Soph and many like them would then listen to that episode nervously thinking to themselves, Oh no, I hope Jay didn't fuck this up too much. So, you and me both.
But to end on a high note, just as Sophie did actually, this has been an unexpectedly emotional production day for me. Longtime listeners may have heard me say before that, uh, I only tend to get teary about happy things. I don't tend to cry about sad things, uh, too often. And, uh, today it happened twice. The first was the second bonus clip that members heard, which was a story about [01:10:00] converting an anti-union activist into a pro-union activist and the building of solidarity it took to get them there. I just found that very touching. And then the second was hearing Soph describe something I'd said as uplifting and powerful and hearing that was very much uplifting and powerful for me, so I really appreciated that.
As always, keep the comments coming in. You can leave a voicemail as always, or you can now send us a text message through SMS, find us on WhatsApp or the Signal messaging app all at the same number, 202-999-3991 or keep it old school by emailing me to [email protected].
Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Dion Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show, and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to our Transcriptionist Trio, Ken, Brian, and La Wendy, for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media [01:11:00] outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships at bestoftheleft.com/support, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple Podcast app. Membership's how you get instant access to our incredibly good and usually funny bonus episodes, in addition to there being extra content, no ads, and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. And you can join the discussion on our Discord community. There's a link to join in the show notes.
So, coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to you twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from bestoftheleft.com.