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World Wide Work bulletin - 2015 no.2

This edition of the free bulletin, World Wide Work, is published by and the American Labor Education Center, an independent nonprofit founded in 1979.

New and worth noting…

Dear White People. A provocative and clever feature film shows external obstacles and internal conflicts that people of color face at an Ivy League college and throughout American society. The central characters are diverse and complex, including a young woman of mixed parentage, a black gay man, and several black students who are trying to climb the ladder of success in a racist system.
1971. Throughout the 1960s, long before Edward Snowden, progressive movements could tell that the FBI was infiltrating legal, nonviolent groups to try to undermine them, but there was little documented proof. In 1971, eight activists had the courage to do something about it. They broke into an FBI office in a small town outside Philadelphia and found internal memos in which the agency described its own illegal activities, including unconstitutional searches and seizures, using agents to provoke violence, monitoring mail and phone calls, starting rumors to break up marriages, and otherwise targeting people active in the anti-war, civil rights, and women’s movements. The memos provided the first public information about COINTELPRO, an FBI “counterinsurgency program” the agency said was designed to “enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles and further serve to get the point across there is an FBI agent behind every mailbox.” The activists mailed the documents anonymously to reporters, and the Washington Post ran the story, eventually leading to the first congressional oversight hearings over the FBI. This gripping documentary reenacts those events and includes interviews with the eight activists, who were never caught and who now have decided to go public.
Two Nights, One Day. In this well acted Belgian film, management at a solar panel factory has asked employees to vote on whether they will each receive their expected bonus or whether a woman who has been out on mental health leave will be allowed to resume her job. They vote for the bonus, but the woman has the weekend to try to convince them to change their minds before a re-vote on Monday. She visits each one in this diverse workforce and discovers a lot about them and about herself.
Through a Lens Darkly. After photography came to America in the mid-1800s, most African Americans either saw derogatory images of themselves or no images at all. Thorough archival research covering more than 150 years brings to light the existence of black photographers and family photos that projected black pride and community. Interviews with black photographers today add valuable perspective.
DamNation. A lively documentary shows how grassroots organizing has overcome powerful corporate interests and agencies like the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation to win removal of a growing number of dams that destroy fish and wildlife habitat.
Chasing Ice.A film crew and team of photographers set up cameras in various places in the Arctic and use time lapse technology to show how rapidly the ice is melting and glaciers are receding, pouring their water into the ocean.
The Connection. The UCLA Film and Television Archive restored this visually stunning, downbeat black-and-white feature film made in 1961 by Academy Award winning director Shirley Clarke about N.Y. jazz musicians waiting for their drug connection.

The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Scribner). A beautifully written novel focuses on two characters before and during the German occupation of France in World War II – a boy growing up in Germany and a blind girl growing up in France.
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (Viking). An unusual novel asks what is real when it comes to stories, relationships, place, and time. The plot begins with a novelist who lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest finding a diary of a Japanese girl washed up on the beach. The stories of the novelist and the girl become intertwined.
Who We Be by Jeff Chang (St. Martin’s). A rich exploration of race in American culture and the arts since 1963 concludes that our “primary social schism is not that between so-called red states and blue states, but between those stuck on monoculturalism and a singular ‘American way’ and those comfortable with demographic change and cultural difference…those stuck in black-and-white and those living in color.”
Envisioning Emancipation by Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer (Temple University). A photography professor and historian show how African Americans were portrayed in photographs before, during, and after emancipation. The book makes a good companion to the film, Through a Lens Darkly, described above.
The Half Has Never Been Told by Edward E. Baptist (Basic). This detailed history of American slavery draws on many oral histories and autobiographies that former slaves left behind. It shows how exploitation of black labor, maintained through violence and torture, was essential to laying the groundwork for the U.S. to become one of the world’s economic superpowers.
This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein (Simon & Schuster). This lengthy, often repetitive book could have been much shorter, but it provides a thorough introduction to the issue of climate change. It tells why we need to leave fossil fuels in the ground, consume less, and transition quickly to renewable energy sources. It discusses the need to address inequality within and between societies in the process of combating climate change. And it identifies dead-end roads such as cooptation of big environmental groups by corporate special interests or reliance on technological “fixes” to make the problem go away.
Burning Down the House by Nell Bernstein (New Press). Juvenile prisons are counterproductive because they “take away two things – autonomy and connection – that are central to adolescent development.” They shouldn’t be “reformed” – they should be replaced by using the same money to fund community based prevention, education, and rehabilitation programs.
Social Security Works! by Nancy J. Altman and Eric R. Kingson (New Press). A useful guide explains the important role that Social Security plays in our society, why Wall Street is attacking it, how each of its opponents’ claims can be refuted by the facts, and what can be done to improve the program both now and for future generations.
This Is Not a Photo Opportunity by Martin Bull (PM). More than 150 color photos present a selection of the humorous work of famed British street artist and satirist Banksy.
The Age of Dignity by Ai-Jen Poo (New Press). America needs a system that provides home care to elders and people with disabilities, paid for in part by lowering drug prices under Medicare and cutting spending on prisons, military profiteering, and persecution of immigrants.
The First Lady of Radio edited by Stephen Drury Smith (New Press). Eleanor Roosevelt broke new ground by hosting national radio broadcasts. Transcripts are collected here on topics such as when will America have a woman president (this was in 1934), racism, women in the workplace, the situation of domestic workers, the treatment of immigrants, and more.
The Smartphone by Elizabeth Woyke (New Press). This guide looks at how smartphones are assembled, labor abuses in China, environmental issues, potential health problems, privacy and security questions, and a proposed Smartphone Bill of Rights that would benefit consumers.

Standing in the Breach by Jackson Browne. In a quiet collection, Browne sings, “You don't know why it's such a far cry, from the world this world could be, you don't know why but you still try, for the world you wish to see.”
Ride Out by Bob Seger. You know something’s happening when this Detroit rocker is singing about climate change.

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