To Unite the Working Class – Decriminalize the Underclass

Presentations by: Michael Yates and Josephine Lee
Thursday, January 12, 2023
6 – 7:30pm EST

This is an online event open to all. Register in advance:

The Peter Kwong Immigrant Workers Learning Center invites you to join us for a discussion featuring presenters Michael Yates, author of the recently published Work Work Work: Labor, Alienation, and Class Struggle and Josephine Lee, a member of El Pueblo Primero workers center in Houston, TX., and the Break the Chains Alliance.

Michael Yates and Josephine Lee will give brief presentations outlining their work and perspectives to begin the conversation. Both speakers will expand upon worsening workplace conditions across trades, such as those facing restaurant workers, cruise ship employees, farm laborers, poultry packers, hotel desk clerks, adjunct professors, etc, and the criminalization of a subordinate group of workers. Additionally, Lee will focus on the role the government plays in creating and maintaining this under-class as a tactic used to divide and control workers.

The goal of this event is to emphasize the importance of uniting the working class to fight for equal rights for all in order to raise working and living conditions beyond mere survival. Participants are encouraged to join the discussion and contribute their own experiences in how the declining conditions for workers of all trades have impacted their lives, what they see as the limits of reformism, and how the underclass and super-exploited can play an important role in leading the fight to end exploitation. The discussion will be moderated by Scott Carter, Professor of Economics, University of Tulsa.

Michael Yates is Editorial Director of Monthly Review Press. He was a labor educator for 35 years and a college teacher for many years. During a sabbatical, he served as Research Director for the United Farm Workers. He is the author of several books, including Why Unions Matter, Can the Working Class Change the World?, and Work Work Work: Labor, Alienation, and Class Struggle.

Josephine Lee is one of the founders of El Pueblo Primero, a Houston, TX-based workers center and member organization of the Break the Chains Alliance, a national effort to realize equal rights for all workers, with the repeal of the employer sanctions provision to end the criminalization of immigrants.

“Zone Out” Systemic Racism – January 23, 2022

“Zone Out” Systemic Racism: New York City’s Racialized Zoning, the Role of Nonprofits, and the Working Class’ Fight to Stop Racist Displacement

January 23, 2022 – 6-8pm EST

Presentations by: Tom Angotti, Activist Urban Planner and Professor Emeritus, Hunter College and the Graduate Center; Sarah Ahn, Flushing Workers Center; Ed Figueroa, South Bronx Community Congress; Josephine Lee, El Pueblo Primero and Coalition to Protect Chinatown & the Lower East Side; Yanin Pena, NMASS LES Workers Center

Moderator: Kai Wen Yang, Youth Against Displacement

Register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

“Zone Out” Systemic Racism will feature Tom Angotti, an activist urban planner and Professor Emeritus at Hunter College and the Graduate Center. Angotti is also the co-author of the well-received anthology of zoning case studies Zoned Out! Race, Displacement, And City Planning In New York City (2016). He will be joined by grassroots community organizers, Sarah Ahn (Flushing), Ed Figueroa (South Bronx), Josephine Lee and Yanin Pena (Chinatown/Lower East Side), who will share their experiences in organizing against racist rezoning. The presentation will be followed by a discussion that will focus on how systemic racism manifests in the city government’s rezoning plans and the compromising role nonprofits play in facilitating the city’s top-down developer-driven rezoning plans. Working-class community members are refusing to be “zoned out” and are pushing for community-led rezonings to protect and improve their communities, putting people before profit. The Peter Kwong Immigrant Workers Learning Center (PKIWLC), the event sponsor, invites and welcomes all who desire to learn about and fight against racism in our city.

Questions to consider: 

1) Who is behind New York City’s racist zoning and land use?  How do we fight against it? 

2.) Why have nonprofit housing advocacy organizations moved away from political demands (for instance, fighting against the city’s pro-real estate policies and privatization) to collaborating with luxury real estate developers for economic demands and small concessions (“affordable” housing or local employment)?

3.) What is the difference between fighting for community-led rezoning as opposed to mandatory “inclusionary” zoning, which requires developers to include “affordable” housing in rezoned areas to allow for more housing development?

4) What is the difference between fighting displacement by organizing tenants and fighting displacement by organizing members of a community?

Labor’s Forgotten Fight: Reclaiming Control of Our Time

Tuesday, March 30, 2021 / 6-7:30pm EST
Register for event here

More than a century and a half ago, the demand for an 8-hour day work day was a unifying call among workers and supported by labor unions. The fight to reclaim control over time resulted in the 40-hour work week and overtime pay. This hard-won gain has been chipped away at since, and today we find ourselves working longer hours, often for less pay. 

Join us as we question organized labor’s abandonment of the fight for control of time, and why since the Depression no major party has made shorter hours a political issue.

Presentations by Shirley Lung (Professor, CUNY Law) on her involvement drafting NYS Bill S359/A3145A, which would abolish the 24-hour work day for home attendants and Jamie K. McCallum (Professor, Middlebury College) on the the slow return of a long-hours economy, with a group discussion to follow. Participants are encouraged to discuss what type of demands workers should put forth that would address our declining working and living conditions and how those demands could unite us as a class so that we move away from relying on individual solutions and on advocates to push for the needs of specific sectors.

Addition questions to consider:

  • If workers want to work long hours (overtime), shouldn’t they have the right to do so?
  • Wouldn’t raising wages alone solve the problem of working long hours?
  • Why do home attendants need state legislation to prohibit 24-hour work days? Isn’t this a union contract issue?

Reading Links:

The Four-Day Work Week: But What About Ms. Coke, Ms. Upton, and Ms. Blankenship? – Shirley Lung,  Connecticut Law Review, Vol. 42, p. 1119, 2010

Overwork and Overtime –  Shirley Lung, Indiana Law Review, 2005

The Fight for Free Time Is a Feminist Issue – Ain’t I a Woman?! Campaign and Jamie K. McCallum – Jacobin 03.08.2021

Challenging For-Profit Models In Climate Policy

January 13, 2020
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM Abrons Arts Center
466 Grand Street
New York, NY 10002Presentations by: Sean Sweeney, John Treat & Irene HongPing Shen
(CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, International Program for Labor, Climate and Environment / Trade Unions for Energy Democracy)

Join us as we take a critical look at current mainstream climate policies and discuss alternative strategies towards effectively combating climate change while creating the conditions for true economic and social justice.Climate change poses a serious threat to our living and working environments. Drastic measures are urgently needed, but we must go beyond the profit-driven solutions being promoted by mainstream climate advocates. Our panelists call into question the impacts and goals when profit margins are prioritized over our pressing ecological and social needs, accelerating the existential and potentially irreversible threats to our communities for the benefit of a few.There will be a public discussion following the panel as we look at the critical role of public ownership of energy resources and why we must move away from investor-focused policies that do not help us meet our climate goals.

This event is free and open to the public. Reserve your ticket here.

Please contact us for additional information: or 917-886-6739
The Abrons Arts Center is an accessible entrance venue. All visitors should check in at the front desk of Abrons Arts Center, located at 466 Grand Street. The front of house staff will direct you to the accessible entrance to the Underground theaters, which is located through the garden on Willet Street between Grand and Broome Streets.