Work Work Work and Work!

Illustration by Susan Coyne

This Week: Resistance at Work — with Jane McAlevey, Gabe Winant, Chris Mackin and Melissa Gira Grant. Listen today at 2pm on WBUR or anytime on our website.

MM: Summer’s over folks; back to work and the DJT crazy. The through line in our show this week is the political resistance to Trump we’re seeing in workplaces all over. Grad students, journalists, prisoners, sex workers, engineers in Silicon Valley, maybe all inspired by the teachers on strike in those bright red states last spring, are finding new ways to resist power and pay imbalances and enlist with each other in new kinds of solidarity.

Jane McAlevey calls it a rebuilt labor movement led by women in “mission driven” sectors of the economy — education and health care —challenging power inequalities and getting results that unions haven’t seen in decades. It’s not about higher wages; these women are demanding better education and better health care on behalf of their communities.

Jane is what my feminist daughter calls a savage. Here she is in action. Who wouldn’t follow this woman into battle?

Watch Jane’s 11 minute manifesto about the power of unions to defeat the forces behind Trump.

RP: Our guest Chris Mackin is a little more skeptical about old-fashioned unions. His piece in The New Republic recalled GE’s first chairman, Owen Young, striking a surprising note in a 1927 address:

Into these [larger scale businesses] we have brought together larger amounts of capital and larger numbers of workers than existed in cities once thought great. We have been put to it, however, to discover the true principles which should govern their relations. From one point of view, they were partners in a common enterprise. From another they were enemies fighting for the spoils of their common achievement. … I hope the day may come when these great business organizations will truly belong to the men who are giving their lives and their efforts to them, I care not in what capacity. … Then we shall dispose once and for all, of the charge that in industry organizations are autocratic and not democratic. Then we shall have no hired men.

Owen D. Young

Chris loved the call for “no hired men, ” and we’ve been kicking around the idea all week… so I dug up a little more context.

Young was speaking at the dedication of Harvard’s Graduate School of Business, and his next sentence was: “That objective may be a long way off, but it is worthy to engage the research and efforts of the Harvard School of Business.” Young thought education at the graduate level would give businessmen the time and the responsibility to design better ways for Wall Street to function—to self-regulate, in other words.

And (then, as today) the promise of self-regulation was a defense against more radical solutions. Young was concerned with new calls for regulatory oversight, particularly those of the Harvard Professor William Z. Ripley, a prominent critic of Wall Street throughout the half-decade preceding the Stock Market Crash. In a personal letter explaining the idea of worker-owned businesses, Young wrote, “This is my answer to all those, including Professor Ripley, who are demanding money control of corporations and likewise my answer to the socialists who are demanding community control.”

“Community control” might appeal more to Jane McAlevey—or to our third guest, Gabe Winant. Read him on the long game for unions, white collar organizing, and Dems and workers.

MM: Chris Mackin is a fan of ESOPs (employee stock ownership programs); Nathan Schneider explores Co-Ops in his new book; he discovered them after covering Occupy Wall Street and learning about ways protesters were making a living in the economy they hadn’t yet transformed — with software, social media, cloud data, music streaming, crypto currencies, gig markets and more. Schneider writes about his own family’s hardware co-op in Colorado and loads of other examples old and new. It’s a terrific book and blurbed by our friends Robin Kelly, Noami Klein and Astra Taylor. I asked Chris what the difference is between ESOPS and Co-ops. He wrote:

The answer to the question of how ESOPs are different from Cooperatives is a case study in how structural social change can happen not just through “resistance” and “struggle” but also through intelligent liberal reform. That is not to disparage the resistance and struggle frames which certainly describe a very large proportion of how change is won…Just how that happens is a longer story. Cooperatives are a more direct and democratic structure largely restricted to start-up ventures by idealistic people. There are estimated to be 350 worker cooperatives perhaps employing 7,000 people. ESOPs which are typically less democratic are overwhelming larger with 7,000 ESOP firms employing 12 million people.

We have our own sweepstakes on who Anonymous is (Dan Coats is our bet); but how long can this secret last? Chris had a great line: Black Lives Matter runs The Nation’s poetry page; Twitter oversees The New Yorker and the CIA is in charge of the NYT editorial page. Masha Gessen was first out of the gate second guessing the Grey Lady. And Cory Robin echoed her in his Facebook post about leaked documents and emails in the Kavanaugh hearings. It’s the norms, stupid!

Assuming Donald Trump is still around next spring, that’s when we’ll learn the essential truth. In May, Rick Reilly, the Bob Woodward of golf, will publish his take no prisoners book: Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump.

John Updike said you can learn everything there is to know about a man during a round of golf. It’s true! (I don’t think John played golf with many women. I was lucky enough to play with him twice on his home course, once with our very own radio host, who likes to say he plays golf no more and no less than once a year. If memory serves, I think I beat the Upster.)

Links (of the non fairway variety):

Speaking of those teachers, Dale Russakoff writes in the NYT mag about their new political power; many have left the classroom for the state house.

George Blaustein in n+ 1 wrote the best McCain story last week.

Lina Khan’s new idea on Amazon and monopoly law in the NY Times.

Worth a re-read after last night’s US Open final: Claudia Rankine’s 2015 essay on Serena Williams.

Daniel Gross’s interview with a South Carolina prisoner on strike.

Get Ready

The HBO series adapted from Elena Ferrante’s novel My Brilliant Friend is out in November. Here’s the trailer.

We can barely see over the pile of books we’re reading this fall (Jill Lepore, David Blight, Andre Dubus III, Michael Lewis and more). We’re also thinking about how the Catholic Church mess. Send your ideas to

See you next week.

Anonymously Yours,

The OS labor force.




An American conversation with global attitude, on the arts, humanities, and global affairs, hosted by Christopher Lydon.

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Radio Open Source

An American conversation with global attitude, on the arts, humanities, and global affairs, hosted by Christopher Lydon.

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