Karen Nussbaum

Karen Nussbaum is the founding director and a member of the board of Working America, AFL-CIO, and was co-founder and director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women and president of District 925, SEIU.

Recent Articles

Remaking 9 to 5? What Today’s Working Women Want to See

After viewing the 1980 film, a cross section of women recognized the persistent sexism—but noted a host of newer problems a remake would have to address.

AP Photo
AP Photo Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton at the premiere of "9 to 5" in Beverly Hills, 1980. The press has reported rumors that Hollywood may be planning a sequel to 9 to 5 —the 1980 hit film comedy that starred Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Lily Tomlin as office workers taking abuse from, and then getting revenge against, their sexist boss. Which raises a question: How much of the story needs to change to make it relevant today? How much of the song? ... what a way to make a livin’ Barely gettin’ by, it’s all takin’ and no givin’ They just use your mind and they never give you credit It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it The song “9 to 5” may be running on a loop in your head these days. You might have heard it when Elizabeth Warren came on stage to announce that she is running for president. Or when Dolly Parton led the audience in a rendition at the Grammys tribute to her. Or when the Democratic Socialists of...

Class Consciousness Comes to America

Even in Trump country, pro-union sentiment is rising. But can labor and its allies turn that sentiment into power? 

Rosedale Avenue is a quiet street in Columbus, Ohio, with compact houses that are showing some wear. I recently spent an evening talking with some of the residents on their doorsteps about their jobs, the economy and the future. Tom, a friendly 23-year old covered in tattoos, was just pulling up to his home with his wife Megan, 22, and their two toddlers. They’d been middle-school sweethearts and have been working hard to build a life. Tom makes $14 an hour working with a landscape company, but because it rained that day, he didn’t work and didn’t get paid. Megan works part-time for $11.50 an hour at a candy store at a seasonal job. “My generation is screwed,” Tom tells me. “They all live with their parents, playing video games. I’ve got 20 cousins like that. There are plenty of jobs—but not enough good jobs,” he continues. “Our parents had good jobs. We can’t pay the bills.” What would help? “I’d love...

Labor at a Crossroads: Time to Experiment

New organizing will be propelled by committed activists, but will have to be sustained by huge numbers of members and supporters.

Working America
This article is published as part of " American Labor at a Crossroads: New Thinking, New Organizing, New Strategies ," a conference presented on January 15, co-sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute, The Sidney Hillman Foundation, and The American Prospect . (View agenda here .) Find our Labor at a Crossroads series here . I love the breadth and gusto of the new labor organizing, which includes plenty of innovation based in old labor organizing as well. This mash-up of practical experiences will help produce breakthrough tactics and strategies. There is also a question of purpose—is our aim to improve working conditions, or is it to build a more powerful working class? These are related, clearly, but suggest different strategies and structures. Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, is a laboratory for change. Here are three areas at the top of our list for exploration in this realm. Changing minds Pollsters call this “the frame”—but really...

New Organizations for Workers

This piece is part of the Prospect' s series on progressives' strategy over the next 40 years. To read the introduction, click here . Corporate domination of the media, of politics, and of the workplace has thrown American society out of whack. Labor laws no longer protect workers’ interests. We need to return to the purpose of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The point of the act, according to its preamble, is to remedy the inequality of bargaining power between employees and employers because it’s bad for the economy. The act’s intent is every bit as germane now as it was when it was written, but the regulations are outmoded and often damaging to workers’ interests. The economy and the workforce have changed since the NLRA was enacted in 1935. For workers to regain bargaining power, we need to embrace three fundamental tenets. First, a boss is a boss. Advocating for workers today is a Whac-A-Mole process in which the employers deny they’re the...