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Weekly Roundup: July 7, 2023


At the Blog

On Monday, Sameer Ashar argued that to identify and challenge the conditions facing workers in the low-wage economy, lawyers and law students must develop a shared social analysis with their movement partners. As he writes, “our responses to the underlying structural conditions will fall short time after time if we as lawyers do not engage in social analysis of the problems on which we are working. For example, there are strong incentives for practitioners to work on either fee-generating class actions or, in public interest practice, on small individual cases to recover unpaid wages. The unpaid-wage cases offer a sense of accomplishment, if not attorneys’ fees as well, in cases in which we manage to get small but significant sums of money into the pockets of vulnerable workers and their families. However, in working on these cases, we accept the definition of the problem that we address to be wage theft, rather than racialized labor extraction…. We may target companies that are especially bad actors. But we will not be working on the larger problem of racialized labor extraction. The autocracy of ‘private government’ in the workplace—in Elizabeth Anderson’s words—will remain intact. We will not critically evaluate the broader context and seek opportunities to attack the interlocking regimes of public and private racialized violence to which low-wage workers are subject.”

On Tuesday, Chase Foster and Kathleen Thelen argue that the New Brandeisians should, as their namesake did, look to developments unfolding across the Atlantic. In particular, they explain that EU competition law has adopted a more flexible administrative form of enforcement, a greater tolerance for some forms of horizontal coordination, and a more proactive approach to regulating private economic power. The existence of the EU regime should serve as a helpful political tool, as it shows that reform is both administratively feasible and economically beneficial. Indeed, as they observe, “a number of comparative studies suggest that the European competition paradigm has generated economic benefits, including lower consumer markups, higher labor market shares, and lower levels of market concentration than in the United States. By pointing to the European experience, New Brandeisians will be in a better position to advocate for substantive reforms.”

And on Thursday, Hendro Sangkoyo described the explosion of Indonesia’s nickel industry, and explained how demand for “green” technology among wealthy urbanites has triggered resource raiding in the Global South. Focusing on the Halmahera, a previously little noticed island in eastern Indonesia that is now at the center of mining and manufacturing conglomerates from China, the U.S., Europe, and Australia, he explains how the discovery of the world’s largest deposit of nickel laterite has negatively impacted the surrounding environment. As he writes, “The eleven smelters in the Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park complex deploy the Rotary Kiln Electric Furnace (RKEF) to produce nickel pig iron, which fully relies on burning coal and coal-fired power plants. Each smelting plant feeds on one power plant that consumes roughly 5,000 tons of coal a day and produces over twice as much carbon dioxide. In December last year, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources announced the plan for the new smelters in the queue to produce battery or its intermediate products instead of nickel pig iron, which generates much smaller revenue for the Government. The catch is that instead of RKEF, the production of battery or battery components deploys the high-pressure acid leach process, which just like its RKEF counterpart, needs excessive dirty heat to process low-grade laterite nickel ore. This process also consumes an enormous amount of water and produces highly toxic slurry.”

In LPE Land

Calling all DC law students, professors, lawyers, organizers, or policy people interested in LPE: we are gathering for our first DC Happy Hour on Tuesday, July 11th from 5:30-7:30pm at Wunder Garten!

Are you a progressive who is interested in working in Congress or the Executive Branch? If so, join the Progressive Talent Pipeline. They are accepting applications for they 2023 cohort until July 17!

The Yale Law Journal has published a must-read piece by Amna Akbar on “Non-Reformist Reforms and Struggles over Life, Death, and Democracy.” Stayed tuned to this channel for more on non-reformist reforms this fall!

Over in the Boston Review, Jonathan Levy reviews Glory M Liu’s Adam Smith’s America: How a Scottish Philosopher Became an Icon of American Capitalism and offers his own theory about why Chicago become the headquarters of free market fundamentalism.