Interviews for Resistance #3: Erin Mahoney

The strike remains one of the most powerful weapons that ordinary people have, and one feminist organization has decided to try and build on recent women’s strikes in multiple countries to take a similar action in the U.S. I spoke with Erin Mahoney of National Women’s Liberation:

We have got nearly 5,000 signatures so far and they are coming in by the hundreds every day, of women signing up to say that they will be striking from doing emotional labor in their household. They will be striking from their paying jobs. They will be striking from fake smiles, from making things run smoothly, from laundry to childcare—a whole host of different things that they are striking from. It is really moving to see the reasons why people are striking and also the breadth of work that they are striking from.

Up at In These Times.

Up at Truthout.

Up at The Baffler.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. Previous interviews here.


Interviews for Resistance Launch!

Since the election, I’ve been flooded with questions about what happens next. People who, before November, thought that protesting was useless are now declaring themselves part of the resistance. And yet when you peruse social media, the most pervasive vibe is fear, often coupled with despair.

Thanks to years of being a labor and social movement beat reporter, I also see lots of people who are organizing, who are fighting, planning, and raising hell. But their stories were getting lost under the persistent drumbeat of horrifying news.

With that in mind, in the continuing spirit of Necessary Trouble, I’m launching a new project. Partnering with several excellent news organizations, I’m doing a syndicated series of “interviews for resistance,” which will be available as articles and as podcasts, with organizers, agitators, troublemakers, and thinkers about what comes next. These are people who have already been doing the work that has just become more necessary than ever, around the country, and they will cover a wide range of subjects and geographical locations.

There is an alternative to despair. Resistance is more than just sharing the scary news.

My first interview is now up, with Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson and Ungovernable2017.

We need to recognize that in a number of different instances, folks who actually want to see something different constitute the majority. There were the majority of people who voted against Trump if you just look there. On a deeper level, this is something that I think we need to look at more profoundly and try to address: the 50 percent of voting-age adults in this country who typically don’t vote. I don’t think that is apathy; or not all of it. I think there is a growing dissatisfaction with the façade of democracy. People feel that “Whoever I vote for, nothing fundamentally is going to change. Their economic policy is going to be what it is. A lot of the fundamental questions around society are not on the ballot. We are restricted from being included in any serious discussion of democracy and what we can vote on, so why should I vote?” I think that is begging for some more fundamental, deeper and systemic change that I don’t think the electoral strategy and the electoral focus that we — in this case being the left — have been so oriented toward touches upon.

Up at Truthout.

Up, with audio, at The Baffler.

Thanks to my partner publications for taking a chance on this project: The Progressive, In These Times, Truthout and the Baffler. Thanks to Laura Feuillebois for her transcription skills. Thanks to the Nation Institute, for the backing that makes it possible for me to do this work. And thank you to everyone who fights.


HuffPost Favorite Political Books of 2016

Necessary Trouble was one of HuffPost Politics/So That Happened‘s favorite political books of the year.

There were many excellent books about American politics this year, but Sarah Jaffe wrote a great book about American democracy. It is a rare political book that eschews detailed accounts of legislative battles and interest groups in favor of a sweaty, rude and deeply humane look at the people rebelling (peacefully) against their overlords.


A Diary of Protest for the Days to Come: Review at The Indypendent

Michael Hirsch at the Indypendent had the first post-Trump-election review of Necessary Trouble and concludes that trouble is, yes, even more necessary:

Perhaps, but we knew a Clinton administration would be no springtime in paradise. Neoliberalism is an uninspiring alternative to Trumpism, and the neoliberal order is cracking up, even if it is doing so in a manner few imagined possible. A finely written book such as Jaffe’s is not just a palliative of hope: The stories she reports of people building power through struggle offer a healthy direction forward.

Read the rest at the Indypendent.


The Revolution Will Be Intersectional: Labor Journalist Sarah Jaffe Writes of a New Radicalism

The excellent Katie Klabusich reviewed Necessary Trouble at Rewire. This came out before the election, but remains relevant:

As someone who got involved, in part, because I could see that I wasn’t the only who was frustrated and wanted better, Jaffe’s thesis that this is a “new time” resonates with me.

If she’s right—and I think that she is—we’re at a precipice, which the outcome of next week’s election will only amplify.

“Anger continues to simmer just under the surface, and occasionally, when enough people are angry enough to overcome their reasons for holding back, it explodes,” writes Jaffe.

Read the rest at Rewire.


25 Nonfiction Books for Anger and Action

Literary Hub posted a list of 25 nonfiction books for the Trump age. If there’s one thing that’s been making me feel better in these last few days (aside from the sight of high-school students organizing walkouts around the country, in Phoenix and Omaha as well as Berkeley and New York) it’s that I seem to have written something that people find useful in this moment.

There’s other great stuff on here (my labelmate Ari Berman on voting rights and Angela Davis; The New Jim Crow and Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind and probably the only time I’ll make a literary list alongside James Baldwin) and a few that I’d quibble with. So I also made my own list on my Goodreads page.


Necessary Trouble: Five questions with Sarah Jaffe

Laura Clawson at Daily Kos interviewed me about Necessary Trouble. An excerpt:

You trace a history where unions were vulnerable to red-baiting, were—with the exception of some public sector unions—”disaffected with the [1960s] social movements,” didn’t organize the South because they couldn’t or wouldn’t tackle racial divisions effectively. But in the recent movements you study, unions are largely supportive and in some cases are key backers. How did unions (and the institutional left more generally) come around? Where do you see gaps in that support for new movements, and on the flip side, what do they bring to the table?

I am a labor journalist and a once and (maybe) future union member; the way that workers wield power in and around the workplace and the economy is the subject nearest to my heart. I am fascinated by the history of the labor movement and the tension within it between making fundamental changes to society or eking out the best deal for its members. For a long time, the largest swath of the labor movement thought it had reached a sort of detente with capital, that the boss was content to share some of the proceeds in exchange for a committed workforce that didn’t oppose bosses’ gains. It took a while for labor to realize that the boss never stopped trying to wipe it out, but I think it’s impossible now to pretend that there’s a future for unions that isn’t fought for tooth and nail. Entire books have been written by people with much more experience than I have on how labor came around, but for me the thing that’s interesting is watching the labor movement embrace social movements again sometimes cynically, sometimes with real honesty that they have a lot to learn. This book covers the Wisconsin uprising, the Chicago teachers strike, OUR Walmart and the Fight for $15, all of which are in some ways outside of the box for the labor movement, as well as movements like Occupy Wall Street or the movement for black lives where labor realized that it had to get involved.


From Black Lives Matter to the Fight for $15: Why Americans Are in Revolt: Interview at The Nation

Astra Taylor gave me an excellent piece of book-writing advice early on in the process and at the end, she’s here to interview me for The Nation.

AT: So do activists need to give people in power paths to be heroes, not just villains?

SJ: I think it’s important to tell the story the right way. Seattle’s socialist City Council member, Kshama Sawant, has this great line in the book where she says, to paraphrase: “If you tell people this fairy tale that the benevolent leaders sat down and granted the workers of Seattle a $15 minimum wage, not only is it a profoundly disempowering narrative, it’s actually wrong. You miss the fact that there’s a fundamental conflict between the rich bosses and the workers who work for them, and there’s actual organizing that went on to win it.”

Read the whole thing at The Nation (or in your print magazine!)


Movements, Not Presidents: The Nationwide Fight Against Neoliberalism: Review at Common Dreams

Jake Johnson at Common Dreams reviews Necessary Trouble and picks up on some really great threads, like the below:

While examining this space, Jaffe recalls, she met an emergency medical technician, there generously offering her services to the protesters.

“So far we’ve given out lots of Band-Aids,” she told Jaffe, “because everyone has blisters, lots of cough drops because nobody has a voice.”

Perhaps inadvertently, in her description of the nagging physical ailments that accompany tireless protest, this unnamed EMT nicely underlined the political reality that drove thousands to join the burgeoning movement in the first place.

The public has long been without a voice—at least, without a voice powerful enough to justify America’s official classification as a representative democracy. While democratic forms remain, any lingering residue of the popular will has long since been driven out of the political process. The results, while devastating, have not been entirely surprising.

Read the whole thing at Common Dreams. One of my favorite reviews thus far.