World Wide Work - March 2010
This edition of the free bulletin, World Wide Work, is published by the American Labor Education Center, an independent nonprofit founded in 1979.
WORLD WIDE WORK
New and worth noting...
Sea of Poppies by Amitay Ghosh (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux). One of the best written and most engaging novels to come along in years. It follows the interlocking stories of a range of intriguing characters and at the same time tells a lot about India's roots from the days of British colonial rule.
The Sound of Water by Sanjay Bahadur (Atria International). This short novel about coal miners in India tells a very human story while conveying the author's cynical view of that country's hierarchical and bureaucratic culture.
Timber Beasts by S.L. Stoner (Yamhill Press). This entertaining mystery novel is set against the background of the struggles between timber workers and big logging interests¬ in the early 1900s.
Can They Do That? By Lewis Maltby (Portfolio). Without a union, constitutional rights generally stop at the workplace door. In most cases, it is legal for companies to fire or discipline workers for their political views or their private lifestyle. Increasingly, corporations test applicants for genetic diseases or personal psychological profiles before making hiring decisions. Some employers use the Global Positioning System capacity of company-issued cell phones to track workers' activities during off hours. The U.S. frequently criticizes human rights violations in other countries, but maintains a system of employment law that allows corporations to trample on workers' fundamental rights every day.
I am Not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett (Graywolf). Everett is an equal opportunity satirist, skewering everyone from white Americans to the black middle class to Hollywood, Ted Turner, Jane Fonda, and even himself, an African American college professor. It helps to be familiar with the major films Poitier appeared in.
Teaching What Really Happened by James W. Loewen (Teachers College Press). A guide for students, parents, and teachers who want to analyze class and racial bias in how history is taught in most American schools and then look in new ways at such topics as the "conquest" of North America, slavery, the Civil War, and race relations today.
On a Dollar a Day by Christopher Greenslate and Kerri Leonard (Hyperion). Two high school teachers in southern California decide to limit their food budget to the dollar a day that many of the world's people exist on. Then they try the federal government's official Thrifty Food Plan for people on food stamps. In the process, they explore a range of fundamental issues about food and justice.
Mothers' Work and Children's Lives by Rucker C. Johnson, Ariel Kalil, and Rachel E. Dunifon (Upjohn Institute). Welfare reform under President Clinton was supposed to help children by pushing their mothers into the workforce. More than a decade later, studies show that children generally do benefit when their mothers are provided work with good wages and consistent hours, but suffer increased behavioral problems and poor performance in school if their mothers are pressured to work irregular hours in unstable, low-wage jobs.
NAFTA and Labor in North America by Norman Caulfield (University of Illinois). On the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, workers in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada are all worse off. Traditional union strategies based primarily on affecting national trade policies have proven to be inadequate in a global economy in which capital knows no boundaries.|
The End of the Revolution by Wang Hui (Verso). A Chinese professor challenges in intellectual terms China's one-party, bureaucratic state and the capitalist model being imported by global corporations.
Agitate! Educate! Organize! by Lincoln Cushing and Timothy W. Drescher (Cornell University Press). High-quality reproductions of more than 250 posters related to the U.S. labor movement, together with text that provides background.
Capitalism Hits the Fan by Richard D. Wolff (Interlink). An explanation of America's current economic crisis, which the author has also produced in a video version by the same name from Media Education Foundation.
The Wonder of Whiffling by Adam Jacot de Boinod (Particular Books). ¬ A quirky book about particularly expressive and unusual words culled from all over the English speaking world throughout the ages. The section on expressions in the workplace, for example, tells the meaning of "swallowing the frog" or a "seagull manager."
No Impact Man. An unusually honest, fun, and thought provoking 90-minute documentary follows a New York couple who conduct a year-long demonstration project in sustainable living, doing without petroleum-powered transportation, disposable packaging, food that is not produced locally, electronic conveniences, and more. In the process, they discover that this new way of living without a focus on television and consumer culture opens the way to more quality family time and community relationships.
The Necessities of Life. This well acted,102-minute film provides a warm and touching portrait of an Inuit man and boy who are affected by a tuberculosis epidemic in the early 1950s and are taken far from their native land to a hospital in Quebec City.
The Coca-Cola Case. This 85-minute documentary follows a campaign supported by U.S. unions aimed at holding Coca-Cola legally accountable for the murder of union leaders and activists in Colombia. Company lawyers have been trying to prevent the film from being seen.
Mother Jones: America's Most Dangerous Woman. This 24-minute documentary provides useful visuals for labor history classes, focusing on one of America's most famous union organizers.
Zinn Education Project: Teaching a People's History features more than 75 free, downloadable teaching activities to bring a people's history to middle- and high- school classrooms. Included are some of the best history-teaching articles from the archives of Rethinking Schools magazine. The site also lists hundreds of recommended books, films and websites.
Before & After by Carrie Newcomer (Rounder). Newcomer continues to avoid clichés as she applies her clear voice and songwriting skills to explore spirituality and community in everyday life.
One Stolen Night by John Jorgenson Quintet (J2Records). An American jazz guitarist in the Django Reinhardt tradition shows good range within the broad genre.
Whatcha Gonna Do by Claire Lynch (Rounder). More bluegrass that's not just about Mama and drinking.
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