For as long as workers have engaged in wage labor, bosses have been finding new ways to spy on workers. Some bosses have turned to workplace surveillance to thwart union organizing and other acts of resistance. Other bosses simply want to make sure that their underpaid employees aren’t stealing from them. The most invasive and aggressive monitoring has been aimed at keeping workers on task and improving productivity. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of things about how and where people work, but it hasn’t allowed workers to escape the prying eyes of their supervisors.

At home and under surveillance

The COVID-19 pandemic and…


Back in 1930 the economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that within the next 100 years advances in technology would make work so productive that his grandchildren’s generation would face a “permanent problem” of how to use all of their free time. He proposed divvying up the work in three-hour shifts or fifteen-hour work weeks to give everyone enough to do to stay content.

Over the past nine decades commentators on the left and the right have suggested that increases in automation would lead to technological unemployment. In 1962, Milton Friedman proposed a negative income tax or a Universal Basic Income


Last September, when young people called for global climate strikes, organizers in DC answered that call in a big way. On September 23rd, 2019 hundreds of people organized into 22 different affinity groups to blockade 17 intersections across Washington, DC, effectively shutting down business as usual in the nation’s capital. The mobilization brought together a wide range of people spanning from healthcare workers to union activists to college students to Black Lives Matter to, of course, traditional climate activists. …


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Throughout the 2018–2019 school year, young people around organized massive school climate strikes to demand that the world’s leaders take immediate action to address climate change. The strikes started first in Sweden, then spread throughout the European Union and around the world. By March, 15 tens of thousands of students in more than 100 countries around the world walked out of school as part of the first Global Climate Strike for Our Future issuing a strong challenge to the world’s leaders. Greta Thunberg, one of the strike’s leaders wrote in an open letter in the Guardian,

“We, the young…


Without a just transition away from fossil fuels, workers risk being left behind

General view after a massive fire erupted at a crude oil refinery that triggered several large explosions at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refining Complex on June 21, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

Few episodes better illustrate the complicated tensions overshadowing the climate change debate than an oil refinery closure in Pennsylvania last month. At around 4 a.m. on Friday, June 21, a massive fire and explosion rocked the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in South Philadelphia. The explosion shook houses and apartment buildings on the other side of the city. The ball of fire could be seen for miles, turning the predawn sky orange. As the fire raged, members of the refinery’s Emergency Response Team overcame every human instinct to bolt from the scene, and instead, they ran toward the fire. They battled…


A look at the infrastructure that kept people on the streets in Ferguson, Standing Rock and J20

In Ferguson, Missouri in the summer of 2014 thousands of young Black people responded to the murder of Mike Brown with weeks of bold and fearless mobilization and direct action, facing down mass arrests and brutal repression to start a national movement for Black lives. In North Dakota in the fall and bitter cold winter of 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their water-protector accomplices fought back against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline by mobilizing tens of thousands put their bodies on the line, camping, praying and blockading construction equipment. …


Lawyers and legal workers have played an important role in movements for social change for as long as courts and lawyers have existed. Movement lawyers have played important roles in challenging unlawful government repression of social movements, challenging unjust laws, and providing legal defense for movement participants facing prosecution from the state. There is perhaps no more direct or visceral confrontation between people and the state than the criminal prosecution process wherein the defendant and the state are formally named as opposing parties.

NLG Legal Observer documents riot police

This is the fourth segment in the Lawyers, Lockboxes and Money series, a project that explores the…


This is the third segment in the Lawyers, Lockboxes and Money series, a project that explores the role shared social movement infrastructure has played in social movement uprisings and how this infrastructure has evolved over time, moving across issue areas and geographies to knit together a shared fabric of progressive social movements.

Over the past decade, people across the US and around the world have taken to the streets in wave after wave of popular uprising. They have camped out in city centers and remote construction sites through hot summers and cold winters. They’ve faced down militarized police forces with…


— Part II of the Lawyers, Lockboxes and Money series

Every mobilization, every blockade, every march depends on a complex network of movement infrastructure that will likely never make it to the front page of the papers. To make all of these things possible, hundreds of people prepared and served food, organized legal support, set up medical clinics, designed websites, facilitated trainings, organized transportation, secured meeting spaces, maintained databases, and took on dozens of logistical tasks that allowed movements to operate.

The Lawyers, Lockboxes and Money series is a project that explores the role shared social movement infrastructure has played…

Patrick Young

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