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Last Saturday, a group of renegade artists staged a guerrilla exhibition at the Guggenheim, plastering the museum walls with Italian futurist–inspired posters bearing slogans demanding workers’ rights. It wasn’t just artistic mischief; the agit-prop protest was calling attention to the Guggenheim’s new development in Abu Dhabi, where legions of migrant laborers from South Asia toil with virtually no rights for unconscionably low wages. These construction workers are part of vast network of guestworkers in the Gulf governed by the kafala system, a transnational labor exchange resembling modern-day indentured servitude.
As word of their conditions has spread, there has been a groundswell of activism surrounding the Guggenheim site as well as NYU’s shiny new Abu Dhabi campus. The academic and arts communities have condemned both institutions for failing to protect workers’ rights and stonewalling demands for greater transparency. This week, Belabored speaks with Andrew Ross, NYU professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and an activist with both the Gulf Labor campaign and the Coalition for Fair Labor at NYU, about global labor struggles and the role that the arts and academic communities can play in transnational movements for social justice.
We also look at Sheryl Sandberg’s latest “Lean In” fail, Jeff Bezos as the World’s Worst Boss, Uber organizing, and the non-recovery for low-wage workers. Plus: recommended reading on civil rights and co-ops of color, and the politics of language of the “new” and “old” economy.
Conversation with Andrew Ross
Argh, I Wish I’d Written That!
Michelle: Mike Rose, “The Talkin’ New Economy Blues: How Mainstream Discourse on the New Economy Diminishes Workers” (Work in Progress)
Sarah: Carla Murphy, How Co-Ops Helped Produce Foot Soldiers for Civil Rights (ColorLines)
Belabored at Left Forum
Sarah: In Defense of Bad Art