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Murphy Student Awarded Scholarship to Attend National Organizers Workshop

Congratulations to Sahar Khan, Labor Studies MA student at Murphy, who was recently awarded a scholarship to attend the National Organizers Workshop!

The National Organizers Workshop March 6-7th, 2015 in Washington, D.C. will bring together 400 frontline organizers from union and community organizations. Large group dialogues and workshops are being designed and led by frontline organizers. Plenaries will be devoted to generating interaction and conversation about key questions facing our movements.

Sahar Khan was born in Dubai but raised in New York City, Queens. Fired by her intellectual curiosity, college allowed her to explore the different fields of academics. While completing a major in Media Communications & Arts at City College of New York, it was crucial for her to link the world of politics to the humanities. Upon completing her Bachelors degree, she was accepted into the Union Semester Program and now she is completing her Masters in Labor Studies at the Murphy Institute, School of Professional Studies.

2015 Diversity Scholarship Application Now Online, Extended Deadline April 30th

The Joseph S. Murphy Scholarship for Diversity in Labor seeks to make a significant contribution toward redressing existing imbalances in the labor movement and academic discipline of Labor Studies by providing financial support to students entering our Labor Studies programs: up to $30,000 for graduate students, and up to $20,000 for undergraduate students

The 2015 Diversity Scholarship Application is now online. We encourage interested applicants to apply by or before the March 31st April 30th deadline*. For more information about the scholarship, please contact our Diversity Scholarship Coordinator, Janet Leslie, at 212-642-2083 or

*Deadline extended!

There is a Future for Low-Income Housing in NYC – If We Work for It!

At this morning’s breakfast forum: “Is There a Future for Low-Income Housing in New York City?”, panelists and audience members had a wide-ranging and animated discussion about constraints and opportunities for achieving the goals of Housing New York: A Five-Borough, Ten-Year Plan. HPD’s Brent Meltzer, a housing preservation specialist and Assistant Commissioner for Community Partnerships, presented the Mayor’s Plan and fielded questions on density, preserving affordability, and the challenges of gentrification. Ismene Speliotis, Carlton Brown, and Lavon Chambers contributed perspectives from advocacy, affordable housing development, and labor. Some of the many take-aways:

  • We need better, more aggressive ways to capture land value to increase rates of affordability.
  • We need airtight ways to bind our housing goals and targets to our workforce development goals and sanction unscrupulous developers and contractors.
  • Housing should not be built in isolation—community planning is needed to comprehensively address neighborhood needs—community organizing is the backbone of community planning.
  • Change in urban areas is inevitable; the issue is how to manage change and eliminate displacement.
  • The non-profit housing sector is underutilized and the city needs to stop over-relying on developer-contractors.
  • Union pension funds should be freed up to invest in housing developments that their members can afford to live in.
  • We need a mix of housing typologies not currently allowed by zoning—single-member households make up over a third of the city’s households but restrictions on density prevent construction of small units. The result: single-member households double, triple, and quadruple up—competing with families for multi-bedroom units.

See two of the presentations from the forum here:

Lavon Chambers, Laborers Union5

Ismene Speliotis, Mutual Housing Association

News Round-up

To the weekend! February’s slowing passing by and NYC’s sticking to record-breaking lows. Here’s some news from this past week:

  • How can teachers unions expand their self-conception, looking at the interests of the whole working class? Bob Peterson offers some ideas via Portside. Want more on labor and education? Check out the latest issue of the New Labor Forum.
  • How is the social-solidarity movement in Greece and the rise of Syriza manifesting a “shift in how we think in collective ways about meeting basic needs”? Read “How Greece Put an Anti-Austerity, Anti-Capitalist Party in Power” by Sarah Leonard via the Nation
  • From earlier this month: From 1974-1979 a small town in Manitoba, Canada offered a basic income guarantee, shoring up incomes for its poorest residents. Whitney Mallet at Vice writes about the so-called “mincome”
  • Speaking of guaranteed income, Alaska pays out dividends to all of its residents from revenues generated via its North Slope oil. On the Commons describes this unique system via Shareable
  • Per Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, today’s the deadline for contract disputes between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union which have slowed West Coast ports to a grind

Photo by JLS Photography via flickr (CC-BY-NC-ND).

Friday at Murphy: Is There a Future for Low Income Housing in New York City?

Join us on Friday, February 20th, 2015
8:30 to 10:15 am

The highlight of Mayor de Blasio’s State of the City address on Tuesday was his affordable housing initiative, starting with East New York, one of the city’s least well-served neighborhoods. His words were greeted with demands for more details, particularly with regard to balancing the needs of diverse stakeholders. Helping to fill in these details, and discuss how to balance these needs, will be:

Brent Meltzer, Assistant Commissioner for Community Partnerships, NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development
Carlton Brown, founder and director, Full Spectrum Construction
Lavon Chambers, Local 79, Laborers Union
Ismene Speliotis, Executive Director, Mutual Housing Association of New York

Eve Baron, Urban Studies Program Manager, The Murphy Institute, will moderate

Continuing this discussion from a neighborhood perspective, examining how residents can build effective alliances and influence to help shape affordable housing initiatives, will be a forum on “Facing Gentrification; Reclaiming Community,” March 24, 2015, 6:00-7:30 pm.

This will be held at the Murphy Institute, 25 W. 43rd St., New York, 18th Floor.


Photo by Dan DeLuca via flickr (CC-BY).

Black families’ middle-class crisis

This article originally appeared on The Hill.

By Basil Smikle Jr.

Congressional Democrats are looking to renew and refine their support for the middle class through increased wage schemes and tax policies. But a spate of current research paints a disconcerting picture of America’s shrinking middle-income households and reveals particular struggles for black Americans, for whom the accumulation and intergenerational transfer of wealth are increasingly nonexistent. Democrats and progressive leaders looking to 2016 should shy away from all-or-nothing ideological debates and address the concerns of important constituencies, mindful of their intricacies and nuances.

A recent New York Times article asserts that the increasing number of households moving into upper-income brackets veiled substantial middle-class contraction over the last 50 years. Continue reading Black families’ middle-class crisis