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Congratulations to Ai-jen Poo!

By Stephanie Luce

Ai-jen Poo, the Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and Co-Director of Caring Across Generations, was selected for the prestigious 2014 Macarthur “Genius” Fellowship. The Murphy Institute has been a long-time admirer of Ai-jen’s work, including her efforts to help win the passage of the New York State Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights in 2010. Last year, Ai-jen was one of six recipients of the Murphy Institute’s Emerging Leaders Award. Ai-jen also serves on the advisory board of the New Labor Forum, and she is the author of the New Labor Forum article, “A Twenty-First Century Organizing Model: Lessons from the New York Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Campaign,” which appeared in February 2011. We are thrilled that the Macarthur committee recognized Ai-jen’s brilliance and the importance of her work. Continue reading Congratulations to Ai-jen Poo!

Votes, Banks, and Rock and Roll

By Joshua Freeman

Two organizations that come from different eras and different universes have joined forces to register voters and promote political involvement among New Yorkers. On Monday, the Amalgamated Bank and Rock the Vote announced a partnership to register voters for the November election. The bank will distribute voter registration forms in its twenty New York branches, sponsor an advertising campaign promoting registration, and join Rock the Vote in a national coalition to counter voter suppression.

Both organizations are in the process of reinventing themselves. Continue reading Votes, Banks, and Rock and Roll

Teachout’s Teach Out

By Joshua Freeman

This election season has seen an unusually open battle regarding political strategy among New York unionists and progressives.  At stake is a crucial issue: how to balance the demands of building a movement that can fundamentally change a political and economic system that fails to serve most Americans against the existing political arrangements that benefit particular groups of workers. This was the key issue at the Working Families Party convention last May.

In 2010, the WFP backed Cuomo even as he attacked public sector unions and ran as a pro-business centrist. Once in office, he forced state workers to accept repugnant give-back contracts under the threat of mass layoffs, fought to lower taxes at the expense of services, and blocked various progressive initiatives.

This year, many WFP activists vowed not to go down the same road again. Continue reading Teachout’s Teach Out

Graduated, But Not Gone: Murphy Institute Alumni Network Meets

As the latest group of Murphy MA candidates prepared to graduate, a small group of alumni and alumni-to-be met to form a network. This first Murphy alumni meeting took place on May 19th at the Murphy Institute.

With the help of Murphy staff members, the group of MA program and Union Semester students discussed the prospects and possibilities for continuing alumni involvement in the labor studies arena at CUNY SPS. Continue reading Graduated, But Not Gone: Murphy Institute Alumni Network Meets

Sub: The View from the Teaching Underclass

sub

By Joshua Freeman

Shortly after graduating college, when I thought we would seize state power in a couple months, or maybe a couple of years, I took a job as a substitute school teacher in Worcester, Massachusetts. Assigned to a junior high school — this was before the new-fangled middle school became the norm — I immediately found myself immersed in chaos, which somehow I was supposed to control. Kids raucously went about their business, whatever it might have been, paying no attention to anything I did or said. Bathroom passes and just about everything else flew off my desk, and I could not figure out how to stop the boys hiding in the coat closet from lighting matches without abandoning the rest of the class to total chaos — while all I really wanted to do was to get into the coat closet myself and light up a cigarette.

I lasted four days, or maybe it was three. My next job, in a factory making plastic Halloween pumpkins, seemed like a piece of cake in comparison. Continue reading Sub: The View from the Teaching Underclass

Murphy Report in NYTimes: Retail Workers and Unions

This week, the NYTimes ran a story by Rachel L. Swarns showing the stark differences in labor conditions for unionized vs non-unionized retail workers.  In an article that will come as no surprise to those who have been following labor struggles among retail workers, Swarns writes about the relatively stable labor conditions for workers at Macy’s in New York City’s Harold Square, explaining:

…these union workers savor something that is all too rare in the retail industry right now: guaranteed minimum hours — for part-time and full-time employees — and predictable schedules.

Unfortunately, as an upcoming report by Murphy Professor Stephanie Luce and the Retail Action Project shows, these benefits are accruing to only a fraction of the retail industry as a whole. Swarns writes that the researchers, “surveyed 236 retail workers in Manhattan and Brooklyn and found that only 40 percent had set minimum hours per week.”

For more on the state of unions and retail workers, and a look at some of the changes the retail industry is undergoing, read the full story.

Photo via NYTimes