From Peg Rap on the Summer Conference

I am a grad from the New School (1993) active in labor and grassroots community work. I have taught Labor and Contemporary Issues to Union Members through the Labor program at Empire State College in New York and an elective course, Labor and the Law, to high school students in New York. Both of these courses are taught from and include a radical economic perspective.

Sorry to hear the Summer Conference is being cancelled. Some of the alternatives to the summer conference that you mentioned — the Brooklyn Day Conference, The Amhearst Conference, The Left Forum (which I already go to) and the WAPE Conference might serve a similar purpose.I  go to the USSF which I love.

While  I understand the priorities issue, I believe the Summer Conference serves a different need, especially for those of us who are not working in academia. It gives us an intense, intimate connection that is specifically focused on radical economics and an opportunity to talk one on one with radical economists that enables us to bring it back to our communities in a way that larger conferences or day conferences do not.

I.e., I have attended 3 or 4 URPE conferences over the past twenty years.  This past year at the conference I was able to talk to Al Campbell about his work with coops and the Steelworkers, informally, at one of the late night sessions. This fall, I brought up the new connection between the Mondragon Coop and the Steelworkers at a discussion with  the head of the Steelworkers at a Murphy Labor Institute meeting.  After the meeting, several people came up to me and wanted to know more about this. Very few people had heard or knew anything about the possible connections between the labor movement and coops. In fact, for most of the people there, the concept of coops was foreign. I then had ongoing contact with one young grad student about the possible role of coops in labor organizing. These kinds of experiences and information dissemination go on all the time and, for me, would probably not happen without the summer conference connection.

The summer conferences have been my way of staying connected to the specific question of economics so I can bring information back to my communities. Hope there will be another solution to the problem instead of just cancelling the summer conference.Maybe involving more people in the planning of the summer conference. Maybe making it every other year.  Hopefully it won’t be scrapped entirely.
Peg Rapp
rap8643@aol.com


One thought on “From Peg Rap on the Summer Conference

  1. I appreciate the SC’s view and as someone who had not been to a summer conference for a long time am a bit hesitant to weigh in. However, my experience has been similar to Peg’s and Chris’s in that the Summer Conference was a key venue that kept me linked to URPE when I was not an academic – and am currently not. In this sense I think it (did anyway) serve a vitally important community building and networking role for me and I think for URPE and the left more generally. If anything we need more of this, not less, these days.

    As many of you know I have been trying to get the RRPE Board to reinstate a summer conference meeting as it seemed to me a “no brainer” that URPE resources should be used to subsidize URPE programs like the summer conference rather than an isolated Board meeting at another time and location. My thinking is that having even a small group of RRPE board members participating could help revive the summer conference.

    I personally have not been able to come because of costs (including travel from Chicago) and sometimes timing (conflicts with Rocky Mountain Fiddle camp – a major ‘family’ event for us). However the conflict does not occur every year and I would have come a number of times if I (my family) had the resources (two kids in college next year). BTW – I used to bring my kids to the conference when they were young – and it can’t have hurt as my son is now a labor organizer!

    It seems to me that it would be at least worth trying to see if subsidizing RRPE and SC members to go to the conference would be workable and would make a difference. I would encourage the SC to take the lead in negotiations with the RRPE board on this proposal if it looks promising to you (the SC).

    In Solidarity,

    Ron Baiman

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