From taxi drivers working long hours and nights to restaurant workers taking home little but tips, New York is home to one of the fastest growing "precariats" in the United States. Precarious workers like these have fallen largely outside of traditional labor's ranks, and more and more Americans are joining them:
"If we're going to deal with this new reorganization of capital in the world economy, there has to be room for experiment," Ed Ott, Executive Director of the NYC Central Labor Council said recently on a panel held at the Ford Foundation and hosted and produced by GRITtv's Laura Flanders.
Going forward, said Ott, "it isn't just going to be a one-size fits all economy."
Adapting to diverse new economies, many workers have plugged into worker's centers and community-based organizations to address their employment and safety concerns.
The recently released book New Labor, New York profiles thirteen of those organizations, describing the ways they've worked and how they've influenced the city, the nation and the rest of the labor movement.
On March 31, at the Ford Foundation, the book's editors, Ruth Milkman and Ed Ott of the Murphy Institute, joined Saru Jayaraman of Restaurant Workers Opportunities Centers United, Carrie Gleason of the Retail Action Project, Stuart Appelbaum of Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and Flanders for a frank discussion that ranged from the possibilities presented by the DeBlasio administration and the pros and cons of worker-owned co-ops, to the good and bad of being New Yorkers:
"Sometimes the way we think in New York City holds us back" said Saru Jayaraman of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, "Like thinking about this conversation as an alt-labor conversation when you have the two largest private sector industries in the United States here. We're not talking about 'alt-labor', we're talking about labor."