Friday, September 22, 2006

A New Year, a New Dedication

Tonight marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. During the ten days following Rosh Hashanah (which end with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement), Jews go to those whom they have wronged in the past year and ask for forgiveness. This time offers the opportunity to reassess one's life and make choices about the person that one wants to be in the next year. Let us, then, take this moment to be honest about our shortcomings, but then move forward and rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of justice for all people, including ourselves.


An anonymous poster wrote a comment this morning in response to the last post which I think is really worth engaging with. This poster highlighted one of the difficulties with organizing academic labor. I am not going to quote the whole comment here, as interested readers can just click on this link, but it ends by saying "We [academics] are accustomed to judging an argument on its evidence rather than its polemics."

I agree wholeheartedly that the answers to empirical questions ought to be determined by evidence (as in most academic disciplines) rather than by rhetoric (as in law and politics). However, union organizing (as other forms of collective behavior) are not really empirical questions. What I mean is that the likely outcome of collective action is determined in large part by how many people are mobilized to participate and how strong their committment to the cause is. If each person needs to be convinced individually that the movement will succeed, we end up in what rational choice theorists call a collective action problem, where all actors assume that their participation will not make a difference.

That may in fact be true. But everyone's participation will make a difference. And you can not necesarily provide evidence of this, because it is something that has not happened yet. Rather, people who join the labor movement do so because they beleive in it: because they are ideologically committed to worker's rights, because they are fed up with the crappy treatment they receive from management, because they and their friends and coworkers are in this together. You can make an empirical argument about the benefits that unions bring. You can make an empirical argument about whether organizing campaigns can succeed without NLRB protections (which they can and do: look at private universities that still have unions after the Yeshiva decision, or read Dan Clawson's The Next Upsurge. But you can't make an empirical argument about the future of this campaign or the future of the labor movement as a whole.

Why? Because we simply don't know what's going to happen yet.

So join us. Don't be a collective action problem. Make the world a better place for workers. And have a sweet new year. L'shana tova.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah sure-- join us in discriminating against and publicly harrassing Jewish graduate students who "crossed the picket lines."

Last year, Jewish grads organized an important conference on Yiddish and were ostracized by you fuck-wads in the campus paper for it. Your dopey friends from THE FORWARD also withdrew their support.

Bite me. Where was the rah-rah support when those students needed it?

9/22/2006 9:47 PM  
Blogger specter of marx said...

Nerds kindly request that readers refrain from posting threatening and/or obscene comments on this blog. We invite productive critical commentary that is germane to our content, and thus have no wish to moderate comments. Please be respectful and constructive in all future posts. Thank you.

With that said, however, the moderators of this blog reserve the right to remove any and all future posts containing profanity, threats, or derogatory remarks directed at the authors or others commentators. Keep it critical, but keep it clean, please.

9/22/2006 10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is this blog? Maybe it should be renamed as Spectre of Mr. Clean? or how about Commie Rat Bites Mickey Mouse in Times Square?

Sanitizethise? (a spoof on Majikthise).

Wash Your Mouth Out With Soap, Grandma?

Enema My Mindcontrol?

Vulgarity Goon Squad?

Just Say No to Swearing?

Bush's War on Obscenity?

Get a life!!

9/22/2006 11:25 PM  
Blogger kstrna said...

Rhetoric that is divorced from the truth and to make one's side look good will only drive people away. I have seen it with GESO in the biosciences at Yale. Those that could have been the strongest voice for the student unionization giving up on GESO because the leadership insisted on rhetoric that disagreed with reality. Rational arguments based on fact with passion behind them will win the day. Admit failures. Be critical of yourself in public not just behind closed doors. Don't turn unionization into a boderline religion.

9/23/2006 4:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why hasn't any of you "concerned studets" answered the charges in the first comment? If you harrassed and ostracized Jewish students, you are disgusting -- and the self serving spoiled brats that your blog (whether you realize it or not) portrays you as.

9/25/2006 11:04 AM  
Blogger Bread and Roses said...

I am not even sure how to respond to these comments, given the lack of sense that they make. But I will try.

1. As you might have guessed from the fact that I even made this post, I AM a Jewish grad student. I am clearly not harassing and ostricizing myself, or the many other Jewish GSOC members.

2. No one who writes for this blog has any connection with the campus paper.

3. And most importantly, all throughout last year, GSOC and the UAW offered substantial support to any group who wished to hold an event off-campus so as to avoid crossing the picket line. We did not act any differently due to the content or identity of organizers or participants at any events. Many people chose to move their events off campus, maintained their sponsorships, and got great attendance. In my opinion, a group of Yiddish scholars holding an event that causes them to cross the picket line are betraying the history of Yiddishkeit in New York, a history full of radical socialist labor activism (which The Forward, at least, is still aware of), a history in which activists would never have crossed a picket line.

9/25/2006 12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't be a quality of life problem at NYU.

Your group (members of GSOC) wrote disparaging anonymous comments about the conference organizers in the campus paper.

Based on your narrow-minded response (presumptive in its belief that all Jewish grads opt to support organized labor based on some homogenous allegiance to Yiddishkeit), I'm sure you were also one of the petty people involved in petitioning the Forward to withdraw funding.

Like I said above, don't harrass and stereotype people who don't share your goals or agendas. I share Sexton's view that your cause is a virus that must be eradicated from campus, and I firmly believe he will stand by his promise: no union this decade, or in the next decade.

Keep fighting the good fight, though. I'll look forward to hearing how things look for the aging GSOC members in 2016.

9/25/2006 7:03 PM  
Blogger kstrna said...

3. And most importantly, all throughout last year, GSOC and the UAW offered substantial support to any group who wished to hold an event off-campus so as to avoid crossing the picket line. We did not act any differently due to the content or identity of organizers or participants at any events. Many people chose to move their events off campus, maintained their sponsorships, and got great attendance. In my opinion, a group of Yiddish scholars holding an event that causes them to cross the picket line are betraying the history of Yiddishkeit in New York, a history full of radical socialist labor activism (which The Forward, at least, is still aware of), a history in which activists would never have crossed a picket line.
**********************************************
Still holding classes and events is still crossing the picket line. Helping groups not have to deal with the reality of the picket line hurt your cause. That energy and resources should have been devoted to gaining support for the strike.

9/26/2006 8:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whatever, Adolph. Good luck with that Beer Hall Putsch.

9/26/2006 8:00 PM  

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