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Faculty Conference: Law Enforcement, Unionism, and Communities of Color

April 28 @ 8:00 am - April 29 @ 5:00 pm


The Murphy Institute for Worker Education & Labor Studies, CUNY, is bringing together academics, labor leaders, activists, students, and policy makers to pose crucial questions concerning the criminal justice system and the labor movement’s place and responsibility within it. Our two-day conference, Confronting the Tragedy: Law Enforcement, Unionism, and Communities of Color, is the culmination of a conversation we began last fall at a forum of the same name (videos here). These events are designed to examine the complex and interlocking dynamics of race, class, law enforcement and unionism, and thus to support the work of social justice activists, trade unionists, and policy makers to create a more just system of law enforcement.


Confirmed speakers include:

  • Michael Javen Fortner, Academic Director Urban Studies, Murphy Institute, CUNY; author of Black Silent Majority: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment
  • Thomas Abt, Senior Research Fellow, Kennedy School, Harvard University; former Deputy Secretary for Public Safety to Governor Andrew Cuomo in NY; and former Chief of Staff to the Office of Justice Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice
  • Ron DeLord, a leading police union contract negotiator in Texas; author of Law Enforcement, Police Unions, and the Future: Educating Police Management and Unions About the Challenges Ahead
  • Marie Gottschalk, Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania; author of Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics
  • Deborah Jacobs, Director of the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight, King County, Washington; former Executive Director for the ACLU of New Jersey
  • Lisa Miller, Associate Professor of Political Science, Rutgers University; author of The Myth of Mob Rule: Violent Crime and Democratic Politics
  • Michael Leo Owens, Associate Professor of Political Science and Religion, Emory University; co-organizer of the Atlanta Reentry Mapping Network, a research partnership among the Urban Institute, Emory University, and the Georgia Department of Corrections and Board of Pardons and Paroles
  • more speakers to be announced!

Tentative Schedule:

Day 1:

  • 9:00am – Welcome
  • 9:15am – Panel I: The Origins and Scope of the Tragedy
    • This panel will examine: 1. Perspectives on urban violence and the policing of communities of color; 2. The origins and consequences of mass incarceration; 3. Potential paths to effective policing and criminal justice reform.
  • 10:45am – Panel II: The Nature and Scope of Bargaining within Police and Corrections Unions
    • This panel will explore: 1. The chief bargaining and representational concerns of police and corrections officers; and 2. The manner in which various options for addressing these concerns impacts policing in the communities of color; 3. How law enforcement contracts been used to support or impede accountability and reform.
  • 12:30pm – Lunch Break (Not Provided)
  • 1:30pm – Panel III:  Communities of Color, Policing, and the Labor Movement
    • This panel will assess: 1. Historical and contemporary sources of conflict between police unions and the broader labor movement; 2. The nature and responsibilities of law enforcement and the labor movement in relation to the safety and well-being of communities of color and the public at large.
  • 3:00pm – Break
  • 3:15pm – Panel IV: Building toward a Common Good   
    • This panel will examine: 1. Criminal justice reforms with potential for ending discriminatory law enforcement while simultaneously addressing the concerns of police and corrections workers and their unions; and 2. The current social and political environment impacting the chances for reform.
  • 5:30pm – Closing Reception

Day 2:

  • 9:15am – Opening Plenary: Criminal Justice Reform and the Labor movement – Why We Care
    • A panel discussion to understand why Criminal Justice Reform is a labor issue, highlighting the work that’s been done and what is ahead.
  • 11:45am – Sessions 1
    • Understanding Crimmigration – A panel discussion on the intersection between Immigration, the Criminal Justice System, and the Labor Movement.
    • What’s the Deal with Labor? – Labor 101 for Community Activists – A workshop to better understand the basics of unionization – of how unions operate, and why they work the way they do, to better understand each other, and to better strategize how to effectuate change within unions.
  • 12:10pm – Sessions 2
    • Unions and Police – A Partnership for Re-entry – A panel discussion highlighting partnership models between these two entities that change the justice system and help with re-entry of returning citizens.
    • Irondale Theater Workshop – Irondale invited the New York Police Department to join with them in developing a community program that uses theatrical improvisation to build communication and empathy between officers and the communities they are charged to protect and serve. Join a workshop and discussion to learn more about the process and program.
  • 1:20pm – Lunch Break (Not Provided)
  • 2pm – Sessions 3
    • Law Enforcement, Unions and Mental Health – Join a discussion on how mental health impacts our policing and mass incarceration system –on how mental health is policed and how it is treated behind bars, and on how it impacts all of those involved in the criminal justice system.
    • AFL-CIO’s Criminal Justice Reform Workshop – A workshop showcasing the Criminal Justice Reform organizing tool AFL-CIO unions are using to move the conversation of Criminal Justice Reform with union members.
  • 3:20pm – Strategy Sessions – Breakout discussion to explore the potential pathways for moving this discussion forward.
  • 4:30pm – Closing Plenary: What is a “Just System”? Alternative Perspectives Organizations and groups across the spectrum of the Criminal Justice system are working on new models to move us toward a more “Just System”. What are some of the avenues being explored? How are groups helping define new paths forward?


April 28 @ 8:00 am
April 29 @ 5:00 pm
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