May 17, 2017
By Silver Krieger
New York, NY – The Metro New York Labor Communications Council held its 42nd Annual Convention on Friday, May 12, at the 1199 SEIU headquarters in Midtown Manhattan.
Amy Goodman, host and executive producer of Democracy Now! was presented with the 2017 Labor Communicator of the Year Award, and a panel, “Workers in the Trump Era; Women’s Voices on the Resistance” was held, featuring five author panelists. Awards were also given to a student journalism contest winner, and to members of MNYLCC, for excellence in labor media in 2016.
After a business meeting where a vote was held on a constitutional amendment and election of board members, the panel, moderated by Monica Mohapatra, Engagement and Development Director, The Laura Flanders Show, convened. The panelists were Miriam Frank, author of “Out in the Union: A Labor History of Queer America”, Sarah Jaffe, author of “Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt”, Jane Latour, author of “Sisters in the Brotherhoods: Working Women Organizing For Equality in New York City”, Premilla Nadasen, author of “Household Workers Unite: The Untold Story of African American Women Who Built a Movement”, and Ginger Adams Otis, author of “Firefight: The Century-Long Battle to Integrate New York’s Bravest”.
The first question to the panel addressed the contradiction between the current jobless rate being at its lowest point in ten years, at the same time that retail workers have lost their jobs at an unprecedented rate – 90,000 since last October – according to Mohapatra. Several of the panelists said that although there are more jobs, many of them are low-wage and non-union, just “survival jobs.” Jaffe said that we are still “digging our way out of the financial crisis.” Mohapatra then asked how effective are the protests of the last year against the loss of jobs. Frank said that there is so much fear and despair now, that “anything people are doing now is good.” Nadasen said that this is an “exciting beginning of people taking agency.” Jaffe said that an Uber strike resulted in 200,000 people deleting Uber. Otis hailed the coverage given to the Muslim ban protests at airports, and said that the “ongoing challenge is for labor to reach out across America.”
Mohapatra then asked the panelists if, had they known Trump would be elected, it would have changed anything in their books. Latour said no, as she wrote about “extra marginalized women,” which hasn’t changed, although her conclusion may have addressed the “reckless administration.” Nadasen said that since the election the left has been grappling with finding a way forward, but “women of color have been on the forefront of this fight for a long time.” Jaffe said that “a lot of people in this country didn’t realize people are struggling,” and “I see Trump as a symptom.”
Mohapatra asked what the obstacles are in reporting on organized labor now. Jaffe said that it had been hard to get an okay for a labor story, but now, due to the Fight for $15, the Occupy movement, and Trump, it has gotten easier. Nadasen said people have “zero sum thinking,” but that “we are all in this together.” Latour said journalists themselves have to be more critical of the labor movement, for example, of unions that don’t recognize climate change. Otis said there is so much “madness and distractions” but that writers should get across that union problems will hurt all of us.
Mohapatra asked the panelists to comment on conflicts between local and international unions and immigrant and undocumented workers. Nadasen said “local vs. global is a false dichotomy,” and that “our working class has always been diverse, and relied on those from ‘elsewhere.’”
Juan Gonzales, former Daily News columnist and frequent co-host of Democracy Now!, and a former recipient of the award, introduced Amy Goodman, saying, “Her show has become one of the most important venues for reporting fairly and accurately, and more than a soundbite,” and that, “She travels around the country and the world spreading the gospel of independent media.” He also lauded her work strengthening its social media profile, saying, “Facebook is the #1 source of news for young people.” He called Goodman, “One of the great journalists of our time.” Goodman is currently on a book tour to support her 2016 book, “Democracy Now: Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America.” Goodman spoke about the history of the expansion of markets for her show. She said that shedding light on the persecution and arrests of activists generated outrage that led to their release, and said that “giving voice to this resistance is critical.” She said, “We need media that covers power, that is not for power.” Speaking about the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at length, she said, “It is absolutely critical we show these images,” especially, “as other newsrooms reject them.” She said, “I see the media as a huge kitchen table that stretches across the globe, where we can all sit and discuss the issues of the day.” Holding her award, she raised her fist and said, “Independent, un-imbedded, and essential to democracy. Democracy Now!”