On Wednesday April 5th, a teach-in was held at the University of Miami to provide context for the janitors' strike that was occurring at that time. A recording of the event is now available as a zipped MP3 file, which you can download here.
Although aimed in the first instance at what was happening at UM, the material covered by the speakers is of general interest and in many cases will apply to other labor situations in the country. The event includes four presentations of about 15 minutes each.
The first is from Professor Robin Bachin (UM, History). She discusses some labor history, starting with the Haymarket Massacre of 1886, touching on the "Bread and Roses" strike in Lowell, Massachusetts, and ending with the passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935.
Professor Ken Casebeer (UM, Law) then gives a lawyer's summary of the provisions of the NLRA, detailing the rights it provides to workers, the methods of unionization it allows for, and such notions as 'gating,' 'secondary boycotts,' 'co-employers,' and 'card check.'
Professor Elizabeth Aranda (UM, Sociology) discusses the nature and the social conditions of the workforce that typically seeks unionization. In today's world, and especially in Miami, they are often immigrants who must deal not only with poverty but with marginalization that derives from their immigrant status. Professor Aranda has conducted research with the workers on strike, and others in similar positions, and reports some what they themselves have to say.
Finally, Professor Bruce Nissen (FIU, Center for Labor Research and Studies) reports on his research on living wage ordinances. The differences in people's lives made by earning at least a living wage are enormous and, contrary to what you might expect, because paying a living wage can actually save an employer money by creating a more loyal and stable workforce, living wage ordinances have almost no negative economic effect on anyone.
After their presentations, the panelists engage in discussion with the audience for about an hour. The whole event is moderated by Professor Evelina Galang (UM, English).