A podcast series produced by Dissent, one of USA’s leading intellectual journals, Belabored covers a range of American labour topics and current events, curated by hosts Sarah Jaffe and Michelle Chen. Jaffe and Chen, along with hosting Belabored, write, produce, and edit media content about emerging labour intersectionalities for a variety of left-leaning print and online publications. Jaffe and Chen introduce each podcast with a brief look at some national and international labour news and then move on to their featured topic. Quickly scrolling through Belabored’s six-year history, it’s easy to see that the show’s 160 and counting episodes are a collection of snapshots told mostly through interviews with frontline labour activists, and through folks with lived experience. Each podcast episode comes with convenient show notes and a link to a landing page at Dissent, which serves as an episode table of contents and a multi-source site of resource links relating to each show. The podcast feels a bit like its parent periodical in that it portrays themes around the margins of political left-liberalism, but since Belabored strives for present-day analysis of regionalized labour movement politics, its trajectory comes across as stealthy and especially relevant for union staffers, leaders, and organizers.
With titles like “The Future of Collective Action,” “Lessons Learned on the Picket Line,” or “West Virginia Teachers Win,” hosts Jaffe and Chen are not afraid to feature interviews with front-liners who have a particular story to tell. Over the decades, concerted attacks by federal and state lawmakers have greatly reduced private sector union density to six per cent in the United States. Public sector unions are doing better, but nonetheless are facing the fights of their lives as lobbyists like the Koch brothers funnel millions into local and regional anti-union electoral and public opinion campaigns. Belabored episodes capture fresh and captivating stories from these battlefronts. The show highlights the intersections of decent work and the social and economic impact of America’s massive low-wage economy. Interviewed guests on the podcast regularly speak from a place of real-time urgency and from a real knowledge base of organizing strategy and conviction. Take, for example, the recent and ongoing strike actions of hundreds of thousands of education workers across the United States. Faced with right-to-work policy and essential service language, incredibly well-organized education workers are defying anti-worker laws by staging massive statewide strikes. Whether covering stories about these strikes, labour conventions, or migrant workers, Belabored hosts Jaffe and Chen routinely illustrate that the power for change belongs to the collective, strategic, and empowered action of workers.