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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 “ismetroonfire.com” 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

Event: Getting Back on Track: The New York Transit Crisis (10/13)

Friday, October 13th, 2017
8:30am-11:30am
Murphy Institute, 25 W. 43rd St., 18th Floor, New York, NY 10036

RSVP HERE

This forum will explore the nature and causes of the current mass transit crisis, and will focus on solutions that will enable New York to sustain itself as a world-class city. During the course of two panels, speakers will offer strategies to modernize and maintain the City’s transit systems, with responses from local elected leaders on the crisis and policies to remedy it.

  • Andrew Bata, Regional Manager North America, International Association of Public Transport (UITP)
  • Robert Paaswell, Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering, City College of New York and Director Emeritus, University Transportation Research Center (UTRC)
  • John Samuelsen, President, TWU International
  • City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of the Committee on Transportation
  • City Council Member I. Daneek Miller, Chair of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor
  • Kafui Attoh, Assistant Professor of Urban Studies, Murphy Institute

Additional speakers to be announced.

Photo by Timothy Vogel via flickr (CC BY-NC)

In the Aftermath of Hurricane Maria

As the tragic aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria continues, we in the Murphy community are reminded that the struggles of Puerto Rico residents are our struggles as well. Last week, the New York Times featured an article highlighting community efforts in New York to aid with disaster relief, and quoted Murphy student John Carlos Rosario:

“There are people in the center of the island with no gas, no water,” said John Carlos Rosario, 25, a Puerto Rican student at the City University of New York. He finally was able to contact his girlfriend in Puerto Rico after six days, only to find out that she was also out of cash. She went to three towns, and no banks had cash. “We need rescue, we need help,” he said.

Our thoughts go out to all of those both within and outside of the Murphy community who have been and continue to be affected by the disaster.

Read the full article here, and read this primer from ProPublica to learn how best to donate after a disaster.

Photo by Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos via US Department of Defense. The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.