Jobs with Justice enters its 25th year facing incredible challenges. Like the labor and people's movements, JwJ is confronting an all out corporate and rightwing attack that is destroying working families, workers lives and living standards. In the wake of the just agreed to debt ceiling fight the whole working class faces even greater attack and pain.
In preparation for its annual conference (August 5-7 in Washington, DC) JwJ is encouraging and engaging in a wide-ranging discussion of the new political and economic situation. The conference features all kinds of opportunities to dig into some burning issues of the day - from workshops to clinics and training sessions.
Two major themes are sure to dominate the conference deliberations: building the movements and coalitions needed to confront the immediate crisis, and looking ahead to chart a workable path of struggle that can turn the tide in a progressive direction.
Both themes are interrelated. It is not only the severity of the attack, but the militancy and advanced spirit of the response. What is the impact of the battles in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and elsewhere? What is the influence of the important changes taking place in labor, its growing political independence and its developing global ties? What is the impact of winning protracted struggles like the steelworkers defeat of raw union busting at Honeywell in Metropolis, Illinois?
It is clear that JwJ and others are building growing ties between labor and community organizations. There is greater energy coming out of civil rights, women's, youth and faith-based organizations. Environmental, peace, and immigrant rights groups are developing real appreciation for, and ties with, unions. And the left is growing in all of these areas of struggle.
Of course, not everyone will agree with these points. But to accurately chart a progressive course, activists need to survey our movements' strengths as well as our weaknesses. How do we spread the "Spirit of Wisconsin" across the country?
There are also burning practical questions. How do we increase unity in action? How do the movements use social media more effectively for mobilization and coordinated action? Can we develop common programs that not only meet the immediate struggles and needs of labor but also raise the demands and needs of labor's allies and friends? And how do we broaden our appeal to millions who have been influenced by the right, but are moving more in our direction?
On top of all this our movements are faced with many difficult tactical and strategic questions surrounding the 2012 elections. Indeed, there are many big questions and issues facing labor and the people's movements. The Jobs with Justice annual conference offers space and resources to make headway to answer and solve them. See you in DC!
Photo: Scott Marshall/PW