Why Trade Unions Deserve the Same Protections as Religious Freedom
Sara Horowitz in Conversation with Andrew Keen on Keen On
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In this episode, Andrew is joined by Sara Horowitz, the author of Mutualism, to discuss job security and insecurity in America, as well as to examine whether or not trade unions can still succeed in today’s capitalist society.
From the episode:
Andrew Keen: Another person we had on the show recently is Jessica Bruder; her book Nomadland is about the very economy you’re describing, a fragmented working class who have lost their sense of agency. They’re working for companies like Amazon. And here their pictures are—they’re not wearing uniforms, and they have no real organization. Has the proletariat, in Marxist language, been replaced by this precariat? Is that accurate, or is it a rather glib observation?
Sara Horowitz: You know, I feel like there’s this way we talk about “the gig economy.” Gigs are what people work on who are musicians. These are workers that work for platforms, and what we really have to do is to say that there is a new way that people are working, and we actually have strategies. We don’t have to make this up. They’re here. We have unions, we have cooperatives. We have the groups that came about in mutual aid this year, showing us that people have an organic sense of how to organize. And what we have to do is start to say to President Biden, if you really want to effect the change that you say, you have to have a mutualist strategy. You have to let these groups deliver the safety net. You have to let them deliver training and health care and retirement. You have to give them money, like FDR enabled the unions in the 1930s, and you will start to see capital flow in to the sector, you will see leadership, you will see infrastructure growing. But it won’t happen without an active government.
It’s kind of an irony, because I think people think that libertarianism might be the answer. Let them just do it themselves. But that’s never been the case. If you think about religious freedom, it came about in the First Amendment after the colonial people came here—that’s government enshrining that protection. So let’s actually build these and then you will see the transformation, because then they have infrastructure and money and knowhow, and that will be the pivot point. I actually am not in despair. I think we have all the examples we need, and now we need to organize and mobilize so that we have the ability not to just wait for somebody to give us the program that’s going to help us. Let’s tell the program people what they need to do.
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Sara Horowitz is the founder of the Freelancers Union and the Freelancers Insurance Company. Formerly chair of the Board New York Federal Reserve, Horowitz is a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship and has been featured on NPR and in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Atlantic, among other publications. A lifelong mutualist, she lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and daughter.