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  Public Employee Press

PEP Nov 2016
Table of Contents
  La Voz

Public Employee Press

Book Review
A new protest movement emerges

A new book describes the rising tide of opposition to the "New Jim Crow" and the percent 1


Author Sarah Jaffee tells the story of the country's new protest movement, which emerged after 40 years of wage stagnation and inequality and the more recent onset of the New Jim Crow, in her new book, "Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt."

Jaffee documents how this new movement was built on the country's long standing decline and kick-started by the "Great Recession."

To chronicle this grassroots fight for change, Jaffe talked with activists on the ground who started by making trouble locally while social media spread the word about their struggle nationally.

Jaffe starts with Occupy Wall Street. The group's rambunctious protests caught national attention and distilled consciousness of discontent over inequality with the slogan, "We are the 99 percent."

Their example spread across the nation and was heard by other groups, including victims of mass real estate foreclosures who frequently refused eviction from their homes chanting "Banks Got Bailed Out, We Got Sold Out." Then, the issue of real estate lending morphed into the student debt crisis.

Even before Occupy, public sector workers fought Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's attack on their bargaining rights as he cut the state budget and taxes of the rich. Their protests went viral nationwide when protestors occupied the State Capitol Building. The area central labor council even endorsed a general strike.

Jaffe also visited the workers protesting Walmart's greedy side. She writes about how Walmart workers fought for higher wages and benefits, and against arbitrary scheduling and sexual harassment.

In 2012, the fast-food workers' Fight for $15 campaign caught fire in New York City and spread across the country, touching teaching assistants, airport workers, home health care and domestic workers, among others. In Chicago, a teachers' insurgency movement fought along with community allies for better schools with a massive strike for higher pay and protecting their pensions. They worked with the community on demands for reversing school service cuts and closures.

Meanwhile, the Black Lives Matter movement expanded nationwide, protesting police killings of unarmed African Americans, such as Troy Davis in Florida, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York City.

The new movement, especially domestic workers and minimum-wage workers, has received support from labor. The Rev. Dr. William Barber, of North Carolina, in particular, has helped grassroots activists from different struggles to work together in the fight against voter disenfranchisement, police misconduct and minimum wage law battles in the South and across the nation.

Throughout the book, which Jaffe wrote before the 2016 presidential campaign heated up, she reminds us that change comes from the bottom, and it comes about no matter who is in power. She emphasizes that the most effective tool in our arsenal to fight inequality is, as the title of her book says, by "making trouble."

Retired Librarian Ken Nash worked at the DC 37 Education Fund Library.

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