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Same Old Labor Day; Very Different Face of Labor

Labor Day comes every year, but ‘labor’ in America today looks very different from what it once was.

Labor Day comes every year, but “labor” in America today looks very different from what it once was. The US economy has undergone such a transformation in the last fifty years that many American workers today barely know who they work for, they’ve certainly never seen his face, and from one job, and relationships that for many lasted a lifetime, many American workers are now working in different jobs, for different employers, across diverse industries in the matter of a single week. As National Guestworker Alliance director, Saket Soni puts it in this interview with GRITtv, from Capitalism 1.0 we’ve moved to Capitalism, 2.0. from an industrial, to a “hitch-hiker” economy. What does that mean for workers and the labor unions that were created in a different century to represent them?

The Laura Flanders Show at GRITtv has been examining the way work has changed and is changing in the globalized economy and how workers and their institutions are responding.

Kathi Weeks, encouraged people to use their political imaginations to dream about new ways of looking at our relationship to waged labor. Saru Jayaraman, urged us to look and think more closely about workers who have yet to see their rights protected by federal labor law. She asks if we can organize around the treatment of animals, can’t we extend that principle to those who serve us our meat? Scot Nakagawa of the blog Race Files, reminded us that there’s history here, and reasons why poverty and unemployment pool in certain parts of our community. One is the federal government’s failure to respond to the 1963 March on Washington’s demand for a substantial jobs program.

Earlier this summer, GRITtv ran into Saket Soni Director of the National Guestworker Alliance and the New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice. The face of labor is different from what it was in our parents’ and grandparents’ day, says Soni, we need new ways to organize around our rights at work.

“Maybe the economy on one hand is filled with uncertainty,” Soni states, “But on the other hand, I think that uncertainty is an invitation to reinvent organizing…

“The United States is on it’s way to becoming a low wage nation a contingents workers nation, and we need to change that.”

Next month, GRITtv will be broadcasting from the 2013 AFL-CIO Convention in Los Angeles and taking our investigation further. What questions would you have us ask? What does your work day look like, whether you’re at “work” or looking for it.

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