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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

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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

Paid Family Leave Should Be Required

This article was originally posted on Times Union.

By Ed Ott and Nancy Rankin

As we head back to work after the Labor Day weekend, it’s a good time to reflect on how things are going for New York’s 9 million working people.

We’ve made some progress this year: the lowest-paid workers got the first installment of their raise, as the state minimum wage went to $8 an hour. Not nearly enough, and tipped workers are still owed their promised increase, but a start. The labor movement succeeded in achieving greater child care funding in the state budget. And over 1.2 million workers in New York City who did not have a single paid sick day before this year are now able to take sick leave without losing their wages or their jobs.

All of these will be good for New Yorkers and good for New York. When workers earn a decent living with sensible policies — like child care and sick days — they can take care of their families, pay their taxes and help grow our businesses.

But lawmakers left Albany before completing one important initiative: paid family leave. Continue reading Paid Family Leave Should Be Required

Community Organizing with WE ACT

Last fall, the Murphy Institute launched a B.A. in Urban and Community Studies. The program focuses on public policy, the delivery of services, and improving the quality of life for communities and working-class populations. Students in the program use methods and perspectives from sociology, economics, political science, history, and anthropology to analyze the conditions of cities, neighborhoods, and communities within a globalizing economy and culture. Our students have opportunities for experiential and applied learning, including fieldwork and workplace-based projects in New York City — our classroom.

Etinosa Emokpae is one of our students and had a chance this summer to intern at a community-based organization in Harlem that engages residents to address environmental justice/public health issues and find solutions. In this piece, she shares some of her impressions.

I’d like to recount my amazing experience in the Urban Studies Fieldwork seminar, which was co-taught by Professors James Steele and Eve Baron. The seminar allows students to intern at a public agency or community organization that fits their interests. Continue reading Community Organizing with WE ACT