For more than a quarter century, workers and the U.S. labor movement have sustained significant setbacks, including the broad expansion of “right-to-work” conditions; the increasing use by employers of vehicles that enable them to shirk standard employer responsibilities; and the Supreme Court’s tendency to prioritize employers’ property rights over worker rights. Despite these trends, 61 percent of Americans view unions favorably; organizing and unionization among young workers is surging, with three-quarters of new union members in 2017 being under 35 years old; and 2018 saw the largest wildcat strikes in decades, with teacher walkouts in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Arizona challenging wage stagnation and school funding cutbacks. What does this imply about the possibilities and struggles ahead for labor? What are strategic options that would enable organized labor to succeed at mass organizing and to join forces with racial and economic justice organizations to become a movement?
Lauren Jacobs, Deputy Director, The Partnership for Working Families
Prior to joining PWF, Jacobs worked with the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC) as the National Organizing Director, and served as an organizer with UNITE and later SEIU. She organized thousands of previously non-union workers in three major metropolitan areas, and led campaigns that resulted in breakthroughs in wages, healthcare and other benefits.
Marilyn Sneiderman, Executive Director, Center for Innovation in Worker Organization, Rutgers University
Sneiderman has directed the National AFL-CIO’s Department of Field Mobilization, launching the national "Union Cities" initiative. Sneiderman served as Executive Director of AVODAH, Education Director at the Teamsters, faculty at the George Meany Center for Labor Studies and Georgetown Law School, and was an organizer and rank and file leader at AFSCME.
Larry Cohen, Chair, Board of Directors, Our Revolution, former president of Communications Workers of America (CWA)
Cohen is the former president of the Communications Workers of America. Cohen chaired major contract negotiations in the public and private sectors, including at Verizon and AT&T. He built alliances and support for telecom workers around the world, including in Mexico, Taiwan, South Africa, Germany and other countries. He is a founder of Jobs with Justice.
Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director, ALIGN NY
Silva-Farrell played critical roles in coalitions such as Real Affordability for All, Caring Across Generations, the Universal Pre-K campaign, and the campaign that successfully halted Walmart’s development in East New York. Silva-Farrell is on the board of Partnership for Working Families, New York Communities Organizing Fund, and Edward J. Malloy Initiative for Construction Skills.
Moderated by Penny Lewis, Professor CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies