“drawing precarity out of the realm of theory and into practical politics”

We wanted to see if the idea of precarity itself made sense: do adjunct faculty, domestic care workers, interns, guest workers, and graduate students really have enough in common to justify the umbrella term? And if so, what can this tell us about organizing workers to fight?

The conversation that ensued was extraordinary. The discussants uncovered points of commonality and described the range of strategies being employed to empower precarious laborers. We heard about guest workers who, realizing they had been brought in as precarious labor to replace unionized labor, went on strike in solidarity with that union. We heard about graduate students struggling alongside clerical and maintenance workers to unionize their university—the new shop floor—“wall to wall.” We heard about domestic workers who, despite the fact that they often lack citizenship, have built a powerful advocacy organization without any union at all and are now forming cross-class alliances to protect and expand their victories.

The conversation could have gone on well past the scheduled end of the panel, and in the pages of Dissent, it will. Precarious labor is now a central question for the Left.

Listen | “Organizing Precarious Workers” | Dissent

Working Beauty

In the opening scene of Julia Leigh’s debut film <em>Sleeping Beauty</em>, Lucy (Emily Browning), our beautiful college-student protagonist, serves as a medical test subject. She leans her head back as the doctor slowly threads a tube down her throat, then fills a balloon in her chest with air while she holds the tube in place. Lucy cooperates excellently and leaves with an envelope of money and a smile.