All posts by Murphy Institute

Building Power before Janus – And After: Lessons from CUNY

This article was originally featured at Labor Notes.

Want to learn more about public sector unionism? Join us for a one day conference on November 17th, “Janus and Beyond: The Future of Public Sector Unions.”

By Luke Elliott-Negri

As recently as 2014, just 22 percent of my co-workers were members of our chapter in our big wall-to-wall union. The rest—some 1,242 employees—paid the “agency fee,” which for us is the same as membership dues. The chapter had been defunct for several years. Few bothered to explain to new employees why it mattered to join and what power might come from engagement.

Both because of the right-wing assault in the form of legal cases like Janus v. AFSCME—the Supreme Court case that will make the whole public sector “right-to-work” by next year—but also because this is what unions should be doing anyway, a group of us set out to change these numbers. Continue reading Building Power before Janus – And After: Lessons from CUNY

Murphy Institute Featured in the Positive Community

Last week, The Positive Community featured an article about the Murphy Institute by Henry A. Garrido, Executive Director of District Council37, AFCME, who also  serves as a Murphy Institute Advisory Board member. It begins:

There is a hidden gem of higher education opportunity in mid-Manhattan called the Murphy Institute for Worker Education. The Institute, part of the City University of New York, is dedicated to preparing the next generation of labor and community leaders, while simultaneously expanding opportunities for working adults in a wide range of fields throughout the CUNY system and in all five boroughs. The Institute has its roots in a small program established in 1984 at Queens College as the brainchild of three unions: Local 1180 of the Communications Workers of America, District Council 37-AFSCME, and the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union. These unions shared a vision of empowerment through education—not only for their own members, but for adult workers more broadly and for the future of the labor movement as a whole. Most of the original 52 students were municipal employees and women of color.

For more on the history of the Murphy Institute and where things are going from here, check out it out.

Video: Getting Back on Track: The New York Transit Crisis

This morning, the Murphy Institute hosted a forum exploring the nature and causes of the current mass transit crisis, and focusing on solutions that could enable New York to sustain itself as a world-class city.

Panel 1:

  • Kafui Attoh, Assistant Professor of Urban Studies, Murphy Institute
  • Robert Paaswell, Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering, City College of New York and Director Emeritus, University Transportation Research Center (UTRC)
  • Pierina Ana Sanchez, Directer, New York, Regional Planning Association

Panel 2:

  • Andrew Bata, Regional Manager North America, International Association of Public Transport (UITP)
  • City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of the Committee on Transportation
  • John Samuelsen, President, TWU International

Missed the event or want to catch it again? Part 1 is below:

How Poor Public Transit Makes Idiots of Us All

This post originally appeared on the London School of Economics Policy Blog.

For more on the public transit crisis, join us for our October 13th forum “Getting Back on Track: The New York Transit Crisis.

By Kafui Attoh

The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. – Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, 1848

There is perhaps nothing more idiotic than a city with poor public transit. The typical North American city may, in this sense, be the paragon of idiocy. As many have long noted, the US remains rather unique amongst developed nations in the reluctance of its citizens to board anything resembling – gasp!—a public bus.  In 2012, only 7 percent of all US residents used public transit on a daily basis. A whopping 51 percent reported never using public transit at all.  For many, of course, the reasons are clear enough. Beyond the “absurd primacy of the automobile in American life,” public transit in the US suffers the same underfunded fate as so much else that is “public” in this country. To quote John Kenneth Galbraith we remain a society that is “privately rich and publicly poor” and nowhere is this more evident than in the sorry state of urban mass transit.

Only this past summer, malfunctions with New York City’s century old signaling system drew national headlines after millions of subways riders complained of excessive delays, overcrowding, and of being stranded at their respective stops. In the previous summer a spate of track fires in Washington DC’s metro not only led to service delays, and the launch of the semi-ironic website “” but several hospitalizations from smoke inhalation. Where this is the reality in two of our most transit-dependent cities, it is undoubtedly worse in smaller cities where transit often remains the domicile of the poor and where suburban sprawl makes commuting via bus slow and inconvenient. Continue reading How Poor Public Transit Makes Idiots of Us All

The Commons Cafe Seeks Coop Members (Brooklyn, NY)

The Commons Café is located within the Brooklyn Commons, an event space and co-working center near downtown Brooklyn, New York. The current owner of the cafe wants to turn it over to a team of workers who will convert it to a worker-coop. We expect this process to take about six months and are looking for new members to join the current workers and participate in the conversion. We are seeking a diverse staff and strongly encourage low-income residents of the communities surrounding our space at 388 Atlantic Avenue to apply.

Our typical daily tasks include: opening and closing the store, taking orders and waiting on customers, operating the cash register, making coffee and tea drinks, sandwiches and salads, pouring beer and wine, baking pastries, ordering, stocking, managing inventory. We all share in the considerable amount of clean up work.

We seek the usual attributes all organizations look for: reliability and punctuality, capacity for hard work, good communication skills, enthusiasm and talent for interacting with the public, curiosity and eagerness to learn, ability to multi-task and prioritize duties.

A worker coop requires an additional set of attributes: people who are excited about working in a democratically managed workplace and who have the ability and skills necessary to transition into an ownership role; people with the time, energy, and political motivation to make a commitment to growing a cooperative business. We also want to play a role in promoting worker coops in NYC.

We will give priority to candidates who offer any of the particular skills we need:

• Someone who enjoys inventing and crafting high-quality sandwiches, salads & soups, sourcing ingredients, costing out food

• Someone with a good understanding of coffee and/or teas

• Someone with a good understanding of beers and/or wines

• Someone with knowledge of social media who can create and execute marketing plans using our website, newsletters and other promotional technologies

• Someone experienced with collective work environments

All members of the coop must have a New York City Food Handlers Certification. If a candidate does not have one when hired, she or he must get the certificate within thirty days of starting work.

Candidates must have 25+ hours/week of availability. Evening and weekend availability is a requirement, but we’ll work with you to find a schedule that works for all of us.

All workers are initially paid $12/hour plus tips (estimated total $16-18/hour). The workers themselves will decide on wages once the coop is formed, but we expect the initial hourly wage for all members to be $15, which with tips would bring hourly earnings to more than $20. It will be up to the members of the coop to determine further benefits and compensation as the business grows.

Email a letter of interest and a resume to Tell us why you’re interested in being a worker-owner at the Commons Cafe, and why your skills, talents and interests make you a good candidate for our coop. Interviews will begin immediately and continue until the positions are filled.

MinKwon Center for Community Action Seeks Community Organizing Coordinator (Queens, NY)

The MinKwon Center for Community Action is pleased to invite applications to join our team as a Community Organizing Coordinator. We are seeking an outgoing, action-oriented individual to play a leading role in our organizing work in the immigrant, Asian American and Korean American communities.

Organization History & Mission

The MinKwon Center for Community Action was established in 1984 to meet the needs and concerns of the Korean American community. Since our founding, we have made a profound presence through various grassroots organizing, education, and advocacy initiatives that address important community issues, including immigration policies, civic participation, and targeted social and legal services. The MinKwon Center places a special emphasis on meeting the needs of our marginalized community members, including low-income, limited-English-proficient and undocumented residents.

Job Description

The Community Organizing Coordinator would work in the Korean American, Asian American, and immigrant communities to grow an informed, active base of community members who are fully engaged in campaigns advancing social justice in immigrant rights, housing and tenants’ rights, civil and voting rights and other issues at the federal, state and local levels. This is a full-time, salaried position.

Job Responsibilities

The Community Organizing Coordinator would have the following responsibilities:

  • Lead events/activities in outreach and engagement of undocumented young adults, LEP individuals and senior citizen immigrants. Specifically, coordinate regular member meetings, workshops, and other community-building and educational programs
  • Work closely with directors to shape programs that will cultivate the growth of community members into community leaders and activists who can engage issues such as immigration, housing and other civil and human rights issues
  • Represent the MinKwon Center in partnerships, coalition activities and other external relationships
  • Help with media activities that raise awareness through mainstream and ethnic press
  • Supervise volunteers and interns

Job Requirements

  • 1+ years’ experience with grassroots outreach and issue-based campaigns
  • Interest and experience in working on progressive social justice issues
  • Ability to work well both independently and in a team setting
  • Spoken fluency or proficiency in the Korean language
  • Excellent communication skills (written, verbal) and interest in public speaking
  • Flexibility in working evenings and weekends


MinKwon offers health, dental, vision and transit benefits. We have a generous paid time off policy.

Level of Language Proficiency: Korean – advanced to fluent

Professional Level: None specified

Minimum Education Required: No requirement

How To Apply

The MinKwon Center will accept applications on a rolling basis until the position is filled. Please prepare a detailed cover letter and resume describing your interest in the organization and the position and email to:

James Hong, Co-Director

NOTE: Make subject line of email “Application to Position: Organizing Coordinator – [YOUR NAME]”