Shaun Richman

Shaun Richman is an expert on workers rights and Program Director of the Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies at SUNY Empire State College.

Recent Articles

Can the Courts Strike Down Right-to-Work?

After decades of anti-worker rulings, unions are now challenging Taft-Hartley on free speech and other constitutional grounds.

Last week, in a move that’s as likely to baffle union activists as it is to encourage them, a West Virginia judge struck down key portions of the state’s “right-to-work” law. The Kenawha County judge’s ruling may amount to no more than a temporary hiccup in West Virginia Republicans’ war to destroy unions. But it’s another example of how hotly provisions of the 1947 federal Taft-Hartley Act are being contested in the courts as it becomes clearer that the anti-union impact of the law has contributed to an era of massive inequality that threatens our democracy. West Virginia’s “right to work” law was rammed through on a party-line vote prior to 2016’s presidential election and the recent statewide teachers strikes. It had survived a Democratic gubernatorial veto and a previous injunction based in part on its ridiculously sloppy drafting. Last week, however, siding with a coalition of unions that included the building...

Will Trump’s Labor Board Say Workers Have No Right to Float a Balloon?

The NLRB’s top attorney is gunning for unions’ inflatable rat—but may miss and hit the restrictions on workers’ right to free speech.

Union activists eager for a free speech fight after the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME attack on union rights may have found one in the form of a giant inflatable rat. Bloomberg reported last week that Trump-appointed General Counsel Peter Robb wants to issue a rule making it illegal to engage in any protest activity in the company of a balloon rat. Cartoon rats—often with nasty red eyes, gnarly teeth and occasionally suitcases and neckties—have been a feature of worker demonstrations in the United States for almost 30 years. Initially conceived as a way to circumvent the Taft-Hartley Act’s restrictions on unions coming to the aid of fellow unions during a strike, they have since become a routine presence at legal picket lines and protest rallies. When not nicknamed “Scabby,” a rat is often named in ways that satirize an unfair boss. Many workers who find themselves in tough fights are warmed by this meme-of-memes’ way of dragging a low-road...

Staten Island Goes Purple

Democrat Max Rose ousts its Republican congressman, no thanks to its ossified Democratic machine. 

Voters on Staten Island—long the only Republicn corner of New York City—have turned their Republican Congressman Dan Donovan out of office. New York’s 11th District—which the island shares with a couple of neighborhoods across the Verrazanno Bridge in Brooklyn—was the last part of the city to be represented by a Republican in the U.S. House. Although Democrats in the district outnumber Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin , Donald Trump won 58 percent of the vote there in 2016. The President retains some popular support on the island, his policies less so. The surprising victory of Democrat Max Rose signals that Staten Island is genuinely a swing district—something that New York Democrats have precious little experience with. The combination of gerrymandering and “ big sort ” demographic shifts created a sort of district-by-district one-party domination in New York State that has resulted, at least within the city, in neither party knowing how...

Take This Bullshit Job and Pretend to Love It

David Graeber's new book explores why millions of people's labor seems divorced from meaning or value.  

The British economist Joan Robinson once remarked, “The misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all.” What kind of misery is it, then, if your particular form of exploitation is being asked to do nothing particularly useful? David Graeber explores this question in his thought-provoking and hilarious new book, Bullshit Jobs . Five years ago, he wrote an essay for the radical magazine Strike! , asking why people in the United States and England are not working the 15-hour weeks that John Maynard Keynes had predicted would be the result of technological advancement? In our post-scarcity society, he argued, only a tiny fraction of the population actually has to labor in order to provide for the material needs of all. “It’s as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working,” he wrote. The essay went viral. Millions of people read it and thousands wrote...

Republicans Are Hard at Work to Turn Staten Island Blue

The Trump faithful in the only GOP quadrant of New York City may go for an ex-con Steve Bannon guy in June’s Republican primary.

(Dennis Van Tine/Sipa USA via AP Images)
Is Donald Trump an albatross around the neck of congressional Republicans? By appealing to his base and embracing the polarizing strategies that he has brought to new heights, will they cost themselves the last few swing districts in Trump-abhorring blue states? We New Yorkers might have the best view of the GOP’s struggle to stay afloat in America’s big cities right here on Staten Island. Republican Dan Donovan, who has represented New York’s 11th Congressional District for all of a term and a half, is in the fight of his political life in the June 26 GOP primary. Our ex-con ex-Congressman, Republican Michael Grimm—fresh out of jail—is running against Donovan to reclaim his old job. Grimm has gone full fascist in order to win the backing of former White House consigliere Stephen Bannon, as part of Bannon’s effort to destroy what’s left of the Republican establishment. Grimm gushed over Bannon’s early and enthusiastic endorsement. His...