Wed, Feb 13 at 7:30 p.m. | 90 minutes
In this seminar at Berg'n beerhall, we'll learn about the history of labor in the US, how it functions now and discuss, together, ways that we can change our relationship to our work and our time.
This Olio is important for anyone who has ever worked, paid or unpaid, struggled with that work, or wondered why some people struggle and some do not. Understanding how certain kinds of labor operates is the first step in understanding the movement towards plutocracy that we're seeing in the US.
We take much of our economy as immutable fact. Wages, value, wealth creation, etc. are presented to us as stable concepts, rather than factors that were created and developed over time to serve particular interests. This assumption has real-world consequences for what (and who) we value, as well as what (and who!) we enshrine with certain rights.
‘Labor’--the way we sustain ourselves regardless of political economy--is the crux of this process, yet we don’t often critique the way it is organized systemically or for ourselves. What do we mean when we say ‘exploitation’? Why is some labor valued over others? How do certain forms of labor find themselves in certain places? And finally--are there other ways of working?
Labor and Time
We will start with the basics: how labor can be organized. The way we work to meet our needs takes up the majority of our day, even if much of that work goes unnoticed and/or unpaid. We will discuss how, and for what purpose, certain kinds of work came to be undervalued, how that process structures our workday, and what it means for workers’ relationships to one another.
Labor and Space
Labor not only changes our concept of time, but our relationship to space as well. Picking up from our previous discussion on what labor looks like, we’ll discuss where it happens. We will discuss US labor movements past and present (and future!), and how spatial ‘solutions’ are deployed by capitalists and workers alike to resolve labor crises.
The Present and Future of Work
So far we’ve been discussing labor in a very particular framework--but what about the other ways that we work and meet our needs? We will revisit some of those early definitions about what work is to inform our final discussion on what work can look like. What does it mean to own your labor? What would New York City look like if we only recognized that kind of work?
Lauren Hudson is a peer educator with the Cooperative Economics Alliance of New York, an organization that she and other collective members of SolidarityNYC, a solidarity economy advocacy collective, co-founded. In addition to her organizing work, she is a recent PhD in Earth and Environmental Sciences at the CUNY Graduate Center and an adjunct in Africana Studies at CUNY’s John Jay College.