Shaun Richman

Shaun Richman is Program Director at the Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies at SUNY Empire State College.

Recent Articles

This May Day, It’s Time to Cut Work Down to Size

Americans work longer hours (even in multiple part-time jobs) than their European counterparts. Here’s how to create a better work-life balance.

Carlos Osorio/AP Photo
Every year, the rest of the world marks the first of May with worker celebration and protest. American unions that sprung up in the years after the Civil War picked the day to launch their inspirational campaign for a better balance between work and life, captured in their slogan: “Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, and eight hours for what you will.” Back then, the average manufacturing worker toiled 100 hours a week. Conditions have improved, but we’ve hardly achieved the eight-hour day. Today, half of all Americans report working more than 50 hours a week, while millions of “involuntary part-time” employees at corporations like Walmart scramble to find enough hours of paid work to survive. Even Republicans recognize this crisis, with their recent belated proposals for paid family leave . These ask working people to fund their time spent caring for their families by taking loans from Social Security, cannibalizing their retirements. They’...

Can the Courts Strike Down Right-to-Work?

After decades of anti-worker rulings, unions are now challenging Taft-Hartley on free speech and other constitutional grounds.

Last week, in a move that’s as likely to baffle union activists as it is to encourage them, a West Virginia judge struck down key portions of the state’s “right-to-work” law. The Kenawha County judge’s ruling may amount to no more than a temporary hiccup in West Virginia Republicans’ war to destroy unions. But it’s another example of how hotly provisions of the 1947 federal Taft-Hartley Act are being contested in the courts as it becomes clearer that the anti-union impact of the law has contributed to an era of massive inequality that threatens our democracy. West Virginia’s “right to work” law was rammed through on a party-line vote prior to 2016’s presidential election and the recent statewide teachers strikes. It had survived a Democratic gubernatorial veto and a previous injunction based in part on its ridiculously sloppy drafting. Last week, however, siding with a coalition of unions that included the building...

Will Trump’s Labor Board Say Workers Have No Right to Float a Balloon?

The NLRB’s top attorney is gunning for unions’ inflatable rat—but may miss and hit the restrictions on workers’ right to free speech.

Union activists eager for a free speech fight after the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME attack on union rights may have found one in the form of a giant inflatable rat. Bloomberg reported last week that Trump-appointed General Counsel Peter Robb wants to issue a rule making it illegal to engage in any protest activity in the company of a balloon rat. Cartoon rats—often with nasty red eyes, gnarly teeth and occasionally suitcases and neckties—have been a feature of worker demonstrations in the United States for almost 30 years. Initially conceived as a way to circumvent the Taft-Hartley Act’s restrictions on unions coming to the aid of fellow unions during a strike, they have since become a routine presence at legal picket lines and protest rallies. When not nicknamed “Scabby,” a rat is often named in ways that satirize an unfair boss. Many workers who find themselves in tough fights are warmed by this meme-of-memes’ way of dragging a low-road...

Staten Island Goes Purple

Democrat Max Rose ousts its Republican congressman, no thanks to its ossified Democratic machine. 

Voters on Staten Island—long the only Republicn corner of New York City—have turned their Republican Congressman Dan Donovan out of office. New York’s 11th District—which the island shares with a couple of neighborhoods across the Verrazanno Bridge in Brooklyn—was the last part of the city to be represented by a Republican in the U.S. House. Although Democrats in the district outnumber Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin , Donald Trump won 58 percent of the vote there in 2016. The President retains some popular support on the island, his policies less so. The surprising victory of Democrat Max Rose signals that Staten Island is genuinely a swing district—something that New York Democrats have precious little experience with. The combination of gerrymandering and “ big sort ” demographic shifts created a sort of district-by-district one-party domination in New York State that has resulted, at least within the city, in neither party knowing how...

Take This Bullshit Job and Pretend to Love It

David Graeber's new book explores why millions of people's labor seems divorced from meaning or value.  

The British economist Joan Robinson once remarked, “The misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all.” What kind of misery is it, then, if your particular form of exploitation is being asked to do nothing particularly useful? David Graeber explores this question in his thought-provoking and hilarious new book, Bullshit Jobs . Five years ago, he wrote an essay for the radical magazine Strike! , asking why people in the United States and England are not working the 15-hour weeks that John Maynard Keynes had predicted would be the result of technological advancement? In our post-scarcity society, he argued, only a tiny fraction of the population actually has to labor in order to provide for the material needs of all. “It’s as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working,” he wrote. The essay went viral. Millions of people read it and thousands wrote...

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