A Warm Welcome to the Fall 2017 Union Semester Class!


Michael Devan
Michael is a recent graduate of Queens College, where he double-majored in Political Science and Philosophy. As an undergraduate, Michael organized with student-led groups such as the Student Organization for Democratic Alternatives and the Students’ Empowerment Party, which sought to build concrete institutions for the implementation of student power. Finding many analogues between the respective student and labor struggles in NY and elsewhere, Michael wishes to employ what he knows about student organizing in the union community through policy research and direct democratic grassroots engagement.

 

Chava Friedland
Chava Friedland is 21 years old and majoring in Science and Technology studies at Wesleyan University. Chava has spent many years at a Jewish socialist summer camp speaking with friends and educating campers about many aspects of social justice. Chava’s interest in participating in Union Semester is to apply academic knowledge more concretely to the world and learn how to be a better activist and community builder. Chava is excited to dig deeply into the specifics of labor history and labor issues in the US, as well as devote energy to union organizing in the coming months!

 

Henry Green
Henry Green grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He graduated last spring from Columbia University, where he majored in Comparative Literature and completed an independent study on the Haitian Revolution. Henry gained experience working on political campaigns in college, where he was a member of Jewish Voice for Peace and participated in planning and launching a divestment campaign. After graduating college, he worked as an English teacher in France as well as with the non-profit Our Revolution to oppose right-wing candidates in the French presidential election. Henry has experience doing corporate research, and has completed a report on Spirit Airlines for an AFL-CIO/Cornell strategic research training program this past summer.

 

Amber Grof
Amber is a proud Nuyorican, originally from the Lower East Side. She is a senior at Hunter College, with a major in Sociology and minor in Human Rights. She comes from a background in the non-profit sector with a focus on community organizing, advocacy and education. Amber is excited to partake in the Union Semester to learn more about the historical roots and modern day practices of labor organizing to better hone her skills as an organizer and contribute in solidarity to the labor movement.

 

Nate Joseph
Nate is from the Los Angeles area, and recently graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a BA in Sociology with a minor in Political Science. In addition to his studies, he has been involved in organizing work with the ANSWER Coalition. Nate is deeply interested in studying and building international labor and social movement solidarity in the fight for global progressive change. He is excited to participate in the Union Semester program so as to become a more effective activist and scholar through engaging in the struggle in this critical time.

 

Sean Keith
Sean Keith recently completed his second year at Northeastern University as a BA-MA combined History student with a minor in Chinese. His areas of academic interest are America and China, and he is specifically interested in labor history, economic history, political economy, and the history of social movements. He is a proud member of Northeastern’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and is on the organizing committee for the newly formed Democratic Socialists of America Libertarian Socialist Caucus (DSA-LSC). As a libertarian socialist, Sean is particularly passionate about union democracy, or the general democratization of unions through processes like participatory budgeting and developments like rank-and-file battles against conservative labor leaderships and bureaucracies. He also has a burgeoning interest in Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), or more specifically the radical policy implications of left-wing post-Keynesian thought.

 

Janet Kwon
Janet is a native of California’s Central Valley. This past summer, she was a Chun Tae-Il Korean Organizing Fellow in Los Angeles at Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA), a multi-ethnic worker center organizing low-wage Latinx and Korean workers. As the child of Korean immigrants, she is interested in the ways that immigrant workers can fight for their rights and empower their communities from within. After graduating from the University of Chicago in 2014 with a degree in Art History, she spent the past three years working in the art world in New York. Observing how workers in this industry were subject to unjust and exploitative practices spurred her to reconsider what her work would be in service of, which led her to join the labor movement. She is interested in the improvement of working and living conditions of low-wage immigrant workers and intersections of race, class, and gender. In her free time she enjoys reading, walking aimlessly, and she volunteers at the 4th Street Food Co-op in lower Manhattan.

 

Margit Lindgren
Originally from Norway, Margit Lindgren is a recent graduate from New York University in Abu Dhabi. She engaged with labor issues in the Gulf during her studies in Abu Dhabi and conducted research on labor movements following the discovery of oil in Kuwait. She is excited to get more hands on experience with labor organizing during her time at CUNY’s Union Semester.

 

Austin Michaels
Austin recently graduated from the University of Denver with a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies and Philosophy. A lifelong fascination with politics led Austin to study them first on the international level, and later on a theoretical basis. Austin sees the labor movement as the natural venue in which to pursue transformative, radically democratic politics in service of the greatest good and is excited to begin working toward this goal.

 

Caring Okonkwo
Caring Okonkwo is a graduate of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She was born in Nigeria and stays in the Bronx . Caring’s reason for joining New York Union Semester is to learn more about workers’ rights and to help make a difference regarding workers’ movements globally.

 

Maia Rosenberg
Maia grew up in Colorado where she spent years training in classical ballet. She attended Goucher College in Baltimore for a year and a half before leaving to intern with Organizing 2.0, in order to learn more about digital organizing and activism. Most recently, Maia has been involved in organizing resistance efforts in DC against the current administration, and plays a logistical role in the People’s Summit and the upcoming Organizing 2.0 conferences. Previously she was involved in anti-fracking work in her home town in CO, as well as anti-dark money and electoral work in Tennessee, where she joined the local chapter of DSA. She is also a founder of the recently formed Socialist Artists Alliance. Maia is looking forward to delving deeper into labor history and organizing over the next few months.

 

Andrew Stebenné
Andrew grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, and decided to study Computer Science and Comparative Cultural Studies, but, seeing what’s going on in the world, decided it was important to take a moment and focus his energy on learning to organize, both in labor and socially. He believes the fights which are coming will be huge and important, which is why he applied to Union Semester.

 

Michael Ángel Rodríguez Vázquez
Originally from the suburbs of Los Angeles, Michael Ángel is a second year graduate student at UC San Diego. Prior to coming to NYC, he spent five years as an educator, including three as a teacher. Over the years he has developed strong interests in culturally responsive education and comprehensive immigration reform; with these in mind, he would one day like to serve as a high school principal in Southern California. Ultimately, Michael Ángel hopes this experience will help him best advocate for migrants, teachers, and students of color.

 

Nate Vosburg
Born and raised in rural Iowa, Nate comes to the Union Semester with various campaign experience throughout the Midwest. As an undergrad at the University of Kansas, he studies Political Science with a concentration in statistics. Outside of school, he has volunteered with Black Lives Matter-LFK as well as the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus. Nate is excited to develop as an activist and organizer while exploring the general labor movement as a career path.

 

Janée White
Janée White was born and raised in New York City. A deep interest in sexual education led her to her position at Babeland as a Sales Associate/ Sex Educator, where she aided in building an organizing committee and served as a shop delegate after Babeland won the vote for union representation by the RWDSU. Her participation in Union Semester will help her determine how she can best serve the labor movement going forward.

The Chief Features The Murphy Institute

The Chief-Leader is a New York City-based weekly newspaper focused on municipal government and civil servants, as well as issues affecting New York State and Federal employees. The most recent issue of the newspaper features an article about the Murphy Institute: “As Jobs’ Complexity Grows, Murphy Institute Helps Bridge Knowledge Gap: Union-Backed Center Polishes Skills, Broadens Education.” The article includes quotes from Henry Garrido (Executive Director of DC 37 and Murphy Advisory Board member), Ed Ott (Murphy Distinguished Lecturer) and several JSMI students.

From Henry Garrido:

“Over the next five years, 120,000 city workers will retire, and we really need the professional public employees that remain to be up to the challenges ahead.”

The article continues:

“To help weather the turbulence ahead, DC 37 is building on its long relationship with the City University of New York’s Murphy Institute. The institute was established in collaboration with city labor unions in 1984 at Queens College to serve the higher-education needs of working adults. It started with just 52 students, and today serves more than 1,500 who are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs. CUNY plans on elevating it to being one of the university’s schools by next fall.”

Check it out here.

TWU Proposes School Bus Coop

School bus maintenance and driving has long been a tricky business in New York City. In the face of mounting maintenance costs, excessive emissions and flatlining wages, the Transit Workers Union (TWU) has proposed a novel — and potentially transformative — solution for the city’s school buses.

This week, TWU international president John Samuelsen and Manhattan New York City Council member Daniel Garodnick outlined the plan in the New York Daily News:

Here’s our plan. Let’s establish a unionized, worker-owned cooperative to transport students in non-polluting (and air-conditioned) electric school buses. For the pilot, we envision the worker cooperative entering into a contract with the Board of Education to provide service on approximately 15 existing routes that are not permanently assigned to any private company. Continue reading TWU Proposes School Bus Coop

Why Labor and Campus Organizing Are Not a Zero Sum Game

This post originally appeared at Waging Nonviolence.

By Will Meyer

Popular left magazines have recently published articles that pit campus organizing against labor organizing. The broad stroke thinking by Amber A’Lee Frost in The Baffler and Freddie DeBoer in Jacobin suggests campus politics isn’t going to win material gains and that serious leftists should wage strategic labor battles as opposed to organizing students. While DeBoer does concede that organizing “absolutely should” happen on campus, he lists the pitfalls of student organizing — summer vacation, graduation, how busy students are and their need to get jobs, among other problems — to argue that campus organizing “isn’t going to work” as a movement’s primary organizing strategy. Frost, on the other hand, warns of rhetorical battles without demands that lack strategy and power. Her piece, titled “All Worked Up and Nowhere to Go,” paints a picture of academic writer-types bickering on Twitter and showing up to rallies that raise morale “but little else.”

This approach marks a stark contrast to that of the radical right, which — over the last generation — has weaponized campuses to serve their ideological agenda, dismantling public education using very effective organizing techniques. Continue reading Why Labor and Campus Organizing Are Not a Zero Sum Game

The Urbanization of Trade Union Struggle and Strategy

By Ian Thomas MacDonald

This is an abridged excerpt from Ian Thomas MacDonald’s new book, Unions and the City.

Many in labor studies have come to see our cities and suburbs as great laboratories of labor renewal. The relevance of this perspective can be glimpsed in the importance of resisting the dismantling of public education to the fate of a teacher strike in Chicago, for instance, or in the equally surprising success of citywide minimum wage campaigns across the United States. But these inspiring moments only hint at organized labor’s daily engagement with the life of the city, which we have found to be broader, deeper, and more complex than is commonly recognized. If we are right to believe that the future of the labor movement is an urban one, union activists and staffers, urban policymakers, elected officials, and members of the public alike will require a fuller understanding of what impels unions to become involved in urban policy issues, what dilemmas structure the choices unions make, and what impact unions have on the lives of urban residents, beyond their members.  Continue reading The Urbanization of Trade Union Struggle and Strategy

Sweden’s School Choice Disaster

By Dyckman Welcome

Data suggests that public education is most effective when parents, teachers, students and school administrators collaborate to focus on the individual needs of a child. A one-size-fits-all model of educating and measuring student achievement works well for some children, but leaves others desperately seeking public education alternatives.

One alternative to the current system of public education fueling political debate is the expansion of school choice through school voucher programs. According to supporters, implementation of voucher programs would create a market driven system that improves educational standards benefiting all of America’s children.  The problem is, the school voucher system has been implemented in other parts of the world, and failed, even as it appeared to initially succeed. Continue reading Sweden’s School Choice Disaster

A conversation about workers, communities and social justice

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