"Where Are Workers Now?" Philosophy Club Discussion

October 04, 2022
Submitted By: Brian David Skelly

Where is Labor Are Workers Now?

A Prognosis

Please join us in Auerbach 320 or online this Wednesday, Oct. 5 from 1 p.m. - 2 p.m. for our next meeting of the University of Hartford Philosophy Club as Kevin Skelly leads a discussion on the current status of workers and the labor movement.

Join the meeting here. If you have trouble joining, call Brian Skelly at (413) 273-2273.

In Kevin’s own words:

"Dan Clawson was my teacher in the 90s and a friend until his death 3 years ago. His most noted work was The next upsurge: Labor and the new social movements,  ILR Press, 2003. Much of my study and what I have to say about workers and labor revolves around his work and thoughts.

The question is where workers are now in the overall arc of their eventual liberation or ultimate enslavement. Still a question, and we’re not out of the woods. The cross-out in the title is to indicate a shift in emphasis toward the worker, which I believe has something to do with this moment. Clawson places the site of the struggle directly on the workshop floor, which is something I grasped as an important, almost forgotten, idea. Others, like  Jane McAlevey (No Shortcuts – Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age, Oxford, 2016),  and Eric Blanc (Red- State Revolt: The Teachers’ Strike Wave and Working-Class Politics, Jacobin, 2019) have a good view of workers and place them centrally, but I think they see the struggle as more about the organizer working to develop the worker and some cadre of workers as the backbone of the organization.

Studying history and labor law suggests a dire prognosis while forcing strong conclusions about how we should be setting our strategy and goals today. Below is an outline of the points to be elaborated on in this presentation. I put the CIO model and organizing theory at the bottom as sort of a historical backdrop. Are we witnessing the next upsurge? (Clawson)

How messed up the labor situation is:

  1. Labor History
  2. Labor Law
  3. Red State Revolt (Blanc) – Teachers’ strikes, Verso.
  4. No Shortcuts (McAlevey) – Health care workers, Chicago teachers, Starbucks, Amazon, Trader Joe's, McDonald's,  Chipotle, etc.
  5. The Great Resignation? With historically low unemployment? Where did those workers actually go?
  6. Organizing theory: CIO model; laissez-faire, "accord" era; "new" organizing efforts (New Labor, etc.); whole worker; “Strike,” “Picket,” etc. 

Daniel "Dan" Conness Clawson (Aug. 18, 1948 – May 7, 2019), labor organizer, was an American sociologist, professor, and activist. Clawson was Professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and former executive committee member of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the Massachusetts affiliate of the National Education Association, former president of the Massachusetts Society of Professors, and founding member of the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM), a grass-roots organization advocating for free higher education in the state of Massachusetts.

Kevin Skelly is a retired Information Technology Specialist and longtime student of and participant in the labor movement in various capacities. He is currently engaged in graduate labor studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  

An ongoing weekly tradition at the University since 2001, the University of Hartford Philosophy Club is a place where students, professors, and people from the community at the large meet as peers. Sometimes presentations are given, followed by discussion. Other times, topics are hashed out by the whole group.  

Presenters may be students, professors, or people from the community. Anyone can offer to present a topic. The mode of presentation may be as formal or informal as the presenter chooses. 

Please be a part of us as we continue this great tradition online and in the classroom!

For more information, please contact Brian Skelly at: