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Day 1: Digial Labor Conference

I am at a conference called digital labor: workers, authors, citizens in London, Ontario, Canada. The conference aims to examine social, political and cultural dimensions of labor that are shaped and disciplined by new digital technologies. While library professionals have discussed ad nauseam about moving library to digital there has been little discussion regarding labor issues inherent in this shift. I hope my blog posts provide an opportunity to think about labor issues within library community.

Vincent Mosco, Canada Research Chair in Communication and Society, Queen’s University, kicked off the conference as a keynote speaker and asked the audience to bring labor research closer to the center of communication research. He employs the concept of convergence. While the term is often used to describe technological convergence, Professor Mosco distinctively emphasized the convergence of unions across professions. By using the concept of convergence, he stressed that we should be able to advance labor interests and address current problems that are faced by technological changes, corporate concentration and rise of neo-liberalism. Professor Mosco pointed out specific successful cases of union convergence in mobilizing workers. Unions such as the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the Washington Alliance of Technical Workers (Wash- Tech) were successful in challenging the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation(CBC), in organizing workers in the wireless sector, and in winning against Microsoft. He argued that convergence is not the only option but rather one among many strategies that need to be utilized to address current labor issues. It is important to use the concept of convergence to help study communication labor within the broader communication scholarship.

The question then is how do we define knowledge labor? It is complex to define knowledge workers but there is conceptual and political significance in terms of answering this question. Professor Mosco addressed that conceptual significance guides us to think about who should be the center of research while political significance will help us to bring workers together across various occupations. In order to succeed as a political project, he stressed that we need to bring people together across broad spectrum and various level occupations. Professor Mosco emphasized praxis – theoretically understand labor and incorporate political dimension.

He suggests that we need to think about labor as an agency rather then dependent variable. The research should focus on giving voice to workers in order to create a political movement. By looking at what workers are doing in response to technological changes, neoliberalism, etc. we will see a resurgence of unions nationally and internationally. Finally he urged us to think fiercely global but also to bring the struggle home. He called for the inclusion of a global division of labor in labor studies in order to understand the complexities of a changing global division of labor. The scope of outsourcing labor has been expanding to legal workers, journalism etc and moving up the value chains. It is not just about US companies outsourcing IT jobs to low-wage knowledge labor in India but also Indian based multinational corporations in the US as a leading outsourcing industry. In response to this, he pointed out that resistance has been growing in China, India and around the world. The question is what’s next? Will knowledge workers of the world unite? Democratically or for democracy? Will library workers be a part of that struggle?

Two videos from NLRB

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) “now features two new videos on the site (www.nlrb.gov): ‘Introduction to the NLRB Public Website’ and ‘How to Use CiteNet,’ the Agency’s electronic legal research database.”

  • announcement (pdf)
  • Introduction to the NLRB Public Website (“demonstrates how to find published decisions and administrative memoranda, how to ask questions via the website or to speak to a person, as well as how to use E-Gov, the Agency’s on-line services such as E-Docket, E-Filing, online forms, and E-FOIA
  • How to Use CiteNet (CiteNet is a free public service offered by the Agency to assist labor law professionals and the public with their legal research needs.)

Hat tip to: IWS Documented News Service!

EBRI Databook on Employee Benefits

Sometimes, the best source of government statistics may be published by someone other than the government. A case in point:

Drawing from the March Current Population Survey, the National Health Expenditures data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employee Benefit Survey and National Compensation Survey, and the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA) data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, as well as the William M. Mercer National Survey of Employer-sponsored Health Plans and other sources, the ERBI Databook seeks to provide “a comprehensive analysis of how the employee benefits system works, who and what its various functions affect, and its relationship with the U.S. economy.” It includes over 400 tables and charts presenting vital statistics on the employee benefit system.

EBRI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization established in 1978, whose mission is “to contribute to, to encourage, and to enhance the development of sound employee benefit programs and sound public policy through objective research and education.”

Hat tip to Stuart Basefsky! (IWS Weekly Bulletin, 8 April 2009).

Excellent site for Labor-Related Information

In celebration of Labor Day, I invite you to visit one of my favorite sites for labor-related information:

  • IWS Documented News WEEKLY BULLETIN, from the Institute for Workplace Studies School of Industrial & Labor Relations Cornell University, Stuart Basefsky, Director, IWS News Bureau.

Visit it regularly, or use its News feed (Atom format), and, of course, it has a search feature.

The Bulletin includes citations and links to Laws, Statistical Reports, Academic Research, Government Reports and press releases from International, Federal, State, and Local governments, and even “Idiosyncratic But Relevant Facts.” Basefsky says the intent of the Bulletin is “to keep researchers, companies, workers, and governments aware of the latest information related to ILR disciplines as it becomes available for the purposes of research, understanding and debate” and that, “The service is unique in that it provides the original source documentation, via links, behind the news and research of the day.”

It is a truly rich and useful resource.

Happy Labor Day!