Calling All Applicants: Fall 2016 Deadlines Approaching

Time is running out to apply for Fall 2016. Don’t miss out. Important dates are coming up fast — apply to our graduate degree and certificate programs in Labor Studies today!

New York Union Semester is a full-time intensive academic and internship program that provides students with an opportunity to put their passion for social justice to work, both inside and outside the classroom. As part of the program, students intern four days a week at a union or worker-rights organization. During the evenings and all-day on Fridays, students take classes with the renowned Labor Studies faculty at the Murphy Institute. To learn more about NY Union Semester, contact Sarah Hughes at (212) 642-2075 or
<<Apply here>>

The MA in Labor Studies strengthens the ability of students to advocate for equity and social justice in their communities and workplaces. Students develop critical thinking, analytical and leadership skills, while learning about labor law, organizing, collective bargaining, international perspectives, labor relations and strategic research. To learn more about our graduate level labor studies programs, please join us on May 23, 2016 at 6pm.
<<RVSP here >>

To learn more, contact Laurie Kellogg at 212-642-2055 or
<<Apply here>>

We have certificates on both the graduate and undergraduate level, including our Certificate in Labor Relations. This certificate is offered through an educational partnership between Worker Institute at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and the Murphy Institute, and provides NYC area union members, officers and staff with practical knowledge, skills and resources needed to be effective practitioners. In addition, the Certificate in Labor Studies is designed for individuals who want to study the social, political and cultural impact that the organization of work has on employees and their communities. To learn more about our certificate programs reach out to David Unger, Coordinator of Labor Relations Certificate Programs at (212) 642-2011 or
<<Apply here>>

Also, don’t forget to join on May 24, 2016  for 4th Annual Joseph S Murphy Scholarship Reception for Diversity.
<<RSVP here>>

Photo by, TR via the Noun Project

New Labor Forum Highlights: May 16th, 2016

The New Labor Forum has launched a bi-weekly newsletter on current topics in labor, curated by the some of the most insightful scholars and activists in the labor world today. Check out some highlights from the latest edition below.

The Annual Summer Inequality Jump Is Nigh

Can we blame summer for inequality? Not quite. But summer is when young people are particularly desperate for jobs, recent graduates are staring at their first student debt bills, and are signing market rate leases for the first time.

It might not be fair to blame the warmest and most vacation-laden of the seasons for inequality, yet it’s a good lens for understanding some of the systemic factors at work. It matters that we draw attention to them, as a way of pushing back against schemes that only treat the symptoms, instead of root causes.

While increasing numbers of college students will be graduating with jobs this summer, it is also true that more of them will be facing a triple trap. The cities with the most opportunities, like New York and San Francisco, are also home to growing numbers of young people trapped in the gig economy, made up of freelancers with few rights and low pay. Meanwhile, this generation has ever larger student debt bills, and even faster increasing rents. Welcome to Millennial hell: low pay, unstable employment, debt you can’t pay, and impossible rent.

And while it may be true that most young people get by, somehow, it’s also the case that those who graduated into a recession will be feeling the ill effects for years to come. Recent graduates in the gig economy will be meeting quite a few from the classes of 2009, 2010, 2011 and so on, whose career prospects took a hit then.

As bad as this is on average, we need to remember that the average masks even greater inequalities. African Americans, including college graduates, continue to be unemployed at twice the rate of their white peers. And women on average still earn less than men – a problem that gets worse as the years go by.

Summertime, but these economic realities mean few of us will rise up singing, instead many will enter the ranks of the precariat, with diminished opportunities and that next step in a gray zone of uncertainty. This issue of Highlights is dedicated to our long, hot, precarious summer, and those who still need support to get by.

View on site


  1. Indentured Studenthood: The Higher Education Act and the Burden of Student Debt by Elizabeth Tandy Shermer
  2. To Be Young and Unemployed by David S. Pedulla
  3. The On-Demand Economy Is Transforming Summer Jobs by Alina Dizik, WSJ

Photo by Yasmeen via flickr (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Michael Fortner Talks to Salon About 1994 Crime Bill & More

With #BlackLivesMatter bringing the 1994 Crime Bill back into the fore, and a competitive race for the Democratic presidential nomination that has placed Bill and Hillary Clinton’s record back on trial in the court of public opinion, more people than ever are asking: what really happened in the 90s? How did we get here, into a world of harsh sentencing and mass incarceration? And how can understanding what happened in the past help us move forward?

The Murphy Institute’s Michael Javen Fortner, author of the widely-reviewed book Black Silent Majority: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment, recently spoke with’s Chauncey Devega to address some of these questions. Check out some of this fascinating interview below, and head to Salon to read it in full.

As I watched Bill Clinton’s exchange with the “Black Lives Matter” protesters in Philadelphia several weeks ago, I immediately thought of your book “The Black Silent Majority.” What was your response to Bill Clinton’s behavior at the Philadelphia rally?

I had two reactions. One was that Bill Clinton is obviously out of practice and he continues to be amazingly thin-skinned. In terms of a political performance he acted badly. I thought he was condescending and way too defensive. I also thought it was strange at first, because he also has in the past repudiated some of his anti-crime strategies. His wife also gave a speech on the era of mass incarceration saying that it needs to end. So Bill Clinton’s attitude and posture towards the protesters given all those factors seems strange and unwise.

My second reaction to Bill Clinton was that there was some truth to what he was saying. The part where he suggested that he had been hearing from African-American groups and individuals that the federal government needed to do something about crime in the streets and that their children were dying was largely correct. Continue reading Michael Fortner Talks to Salon About 1994 Crime Bill & More

Photos: Workers, Technology & Uber: A Student-Organized Panel

By Stacey Payton

As the ‘sharing economy’ grows, so does the level of precarious work, which shifts the risks and burden to the worker, but none of the benefits. The digital tools used in these emerging economies are paving the way for future automation. Will this lead to the eventual erasure of the worker?

Each year, the Murphy Institute hosts a student-organized forum, held at Murphy during the spring semester and arranged by the Urban Studies and Labor Studies departments. The purpose of the forum is to give students an opportunity to apply the lessons being taught in our curriculum to our everyday lives.

This year, our team of students decided to focus on how changes in technology are having direct effects on worker, specifically drivers of the car service Uber. We sought to explore the ways this company is taking advantage of workers and the very communities it claims to be servicing.

The forum, called Reworking Labor: The Case of Uber and the Gig Economy, was held on April 4, 2016 and attended by over 90 faculty, classmates and community members. We’re extremely grateful to our all-star panel for challenging our ideas and expanding our understanding of the current landscape. Many thanks to:


Stacey Payton is a current student in the MA in Labor Studies program at the Murphy Institute.

Flushing Re-zoning: a Threat to Affordable Housing?

In yesterday’s Gotham Gazette, Murphy Adjunct Professor Sam Stein, along with CUNY Professor Tarry Hum, wrote an op-ed about the “under the radar” re-zoning of an area some are calling “Flushing West” (Flushing’s Affordable Housing at Risk, 5/2/16).

According to Stein and Hum, this re-zoning threatens to destroy existing affordable housing by incentivizing real estate speculation. They write:

This proposed rezoning would have a transformative impact on Flushing, a densely populated, pan-Asian immigrant neighborhood with a sizable Latino population and a small but historic African-American community.[…]

Rent regulation accounts for nearly all of Flushing’s affordable housing. The neighborhood’s white-hot real estate market, however, increasingly threatens these rent-stabilized apartments.  DCP’s proposed rezoning – which links the production of affordable housing with the construction of thousands of luxury units – has only increased land speculation and, therefore, landlords’ imperative to deregulate their holdings. Though the rezoning has been paired with an increase in funding for anti-eviction legal services, it has already catalyzed a number of hyper-speculative real estate transactions in downtown Flushing, including within the rezoning area.

Meanwhile, the “affordable housing” that will be built as part of the plan will be meager and largely unaffordable to low-income residents: Continue reading Flushing Re-zoning: a Threat to Affordable Housing?

A conversation about workers, communities and social justice

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