Holiday decorations have taken over nearby Bryant Park, the mornings are getting chillier, midterms have come and gone, our mid-semester internship check-ups are complete, and New York Union Semester will be winding down in just a few weeks.
Before they move on to other exciting endeavors, meet our students! They each bring something unique to the cohort and their internships. Zach has co-authored a report on low-wage work and Walmart, Erin is running steward’s training, Adam is an expert on an innovative teacher’s union project, Tehmiena is helping Bronx healthcare workers go back to school, Michael is helping call-center workers go into contract negotiations, and more!
For information on joining the class of spring 2015, find us at www.unionsemester.org.
Erin Stalnaker, AZ
Transport Workers’ Union, Local 100
Erin Stalnaker began doing labor solidarity work in Mexico and on the US/Mexico border in 1998. She has been active in indigenous and immigrant rights struggles, been both a rank and file activist and a staffer in several unions and worked as a Co-op Development Specialist in financial and worker cooperatives in the US and Canada. In her Union Semester placement with the Transport Workers’ Union, she is working with the Director of Education to design and teach educational programs for Shop Stewards.
*Erin is also a Murphy Diversity Scholarship winner and MA student in the Labor Studies department.
Francis Sanchez, City College, New York, NY
New York State Nurses Association
Having gone to the City College of New York for all of my undergraduate studies and receiving my bachelor’s degrees in Latino Studies and International Studies, I needed to find something to gear all my learning towards. I found the Union Semester and thought it would be a meaningful experience. Now as a Union Semester graduate student I have been given an amazing opportunity to intern with the New York State Nurses Association and work on my master’s degree. Working with NYSNA’s Political and Community Organizing department I am able to see firsthand how important it is to get members involved both in their union and in their communities. I have participated in several NYSNA events, such as their Biennial, where I helped organize their booths; I was also given the opportunity to help bring together a “Safe Staffing” campaign rally, which has been one of NYSNA’s top political and civic priorities. I have always had a passion for activism, starting with my roots at El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice, where it was instilled in me that I have a voice, and it is a valid and important one. It is my responsibility to others as well as myself to mold a community that I can be proud of. The Union Semester is helping me do just that.
Caroline, Chicago, IL
Legal Services Staff Association, United AutoWorkers Local 2320
My name is Caroline and I’m from Chicago. I’m interning for the Legal Services Staff Association. I do a variety of administrative assistant work, and I’m currently compiling an oral history of the members of the union. I decided to do Union Semester because my school didn’t offer any sort of labor studies, and I wanted to meet more people my age who are interested in labor issues as much as I am.
Cleopatra Haviaras, Queens College, New York, NY
Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign
Cleopatra Haviaras is a senior at Queens College. She is majoring in History, with a double concentration in Ancient History and European History. She is minoring in Business & Liberal Arts Honors, Byzantine & Modern Greek Studies, Honors in the Humanities, and Classics. Cleopatra is fluent in English, Greek, and Spanish. Her passion for bettering people’s lives and giving them an equal opportunity to succeed is what motivated her to apply to the New York Union Semester Program. She is interning with the Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign, under the mentorship of Mark Hannay, the Campaign Director. Prior to her internship, Cleopatra did not know much about the healthcare system or healthcare campaigns; however, as her internship unfolds, she has come to learn about the logistics behind the Metro Campaign, and has met many representatives and members from unions such as 1199SEIU, UFT, and DC 1707. Given her long-term interests in Public Policy, Cleopatra aspires to delve into labor-specific work that aims to improve civic engagement across NYC. Upon receiving her Certificate in Labor Studies, Cleopatra will pursue her Master’s Degree in Public Policy, hopefully, at the CUNY School of Professional Studies in the fall of 2015.
Emily Ekelund, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada
I am a settler born and raised on Anishnaabe territory (toronto, canada) and moved to Mohawk territory (montreal) where I have been studying critical-race feminisms at concordia university. I am currently a visitor on traditional Lenape land here in NYC. So far in the program I have been most challenged by the deeply ingrained capitalist idea that we need to take on more commitments than we can handle, always producing and doing more. My strengths don’t really emerge when I’m encouraged to function this way. I am feeling the most excited about my involvement with New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), where I have an excellent mentor and the opportunity to learn while contributing to their advocacy and organizing.
Chad Rosenbloom, Bard College, Pittsburgh, PA
I graduated from Bard College in spring 2014, and am a current participant in the Murphy Institute’s Union Semester program. Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I have maintained an interest in radical politics and the study of history from an early age. In high school I formed the “Noam Chomsky Society,” a student club dedicated to discussing Chomsky’s eloquent critiques of American foreign policy and the pivotal role of propaganda in social control. I was an active member/organizer for the Bard College chapter of the International Solidarity Movement during my time there, and was also able to intern with the progressive media watchdog group “Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting” as part of the Bard Globalization and International Affairs program. The most challenging aspect of Union Semester thus far has been learning to reconcile some of my political sentiments with the established traditions of the labor movement. However, I feel strongly that if one wishes to have some kind of career in building worker power and fighting for social justice, such conflicts in ideology are one of the most valuable things the program can inspire.
Walmart Free NYC
In my first job out of college I worked at a union job in education, which made a difference concerning my wage, benefits and terms of employment. I eventually moved on to various roles in the non-profit sector, but realized after several years that my heart was in the labor movement. Union Semester was the right step for me, and since August I’ve interned at Walmart-Free NYC, a labor-backed coalition working to keep Walmart out of the five boroughs. My work has ranged from corporate research to working with allies to create a unified front against the largest corporation in the world.
Professional Staff Congress-AFT Local 2334
I am a Union Semester Graduate student from Queens, New York. Applying to the Union Semester program is one of the best things that I’ve done. Coming from a union family, I applied to Union Semester to help me understand unions better and how they function. Now that I am a legislature intern at the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY, I am learning more than I anticipated, and with the added classes you are able to take what you learned in class and apply it to your internship.
1199 Service Employees International Union Training and Upgrading Fund
I studied Political Science at Brooklyn College, and following a long period of underemployment, came to realize the importance of understanding my worth as a worker. Currently, I’m an intern at the 1199 Training & Upgrading Fund. My work revolves around providing support in the effort to prepare adult learners for degrees related to healthcare.
Communications Workers of America Local 1180
Samantha Valente is a Fall 2014 Union Semester student and a recent graduate from Hampshire College, where she studied women’s labor history. She joined the program to gain more knowledge and experience in the labor movement before continuing her education in labor history. She is interning with the Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 1180 under the Mobilization Coordinator. Some of the most exciting work has been helping mobilize union members for the People’s Climate March, various labor rallies, and city elections.
Communications Workers of America Local 1102
I was born and raised in Austin, TX, and graduated from the University of Chicago in June. I’m currently in the Union Semester program and I am working for CWA Local 1102 doing internal and new organizing. I got interested in unionism and Union Semester while doing healthcare-equity activism in Chicago, with local organizations trying to bring a trauma center to the South Side of Chicago.
Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union
New York State Paid Leave Coalition
A newcomer to the world of labor rights, Gillian Rothchild left her career as a veterinary technician after ten years in that field. She realized that issues that kept arising with her managers regarding her pay, scheduling and benefits were problems being faced by millions of other workers across the country. The Union Semester program seemed like the best way for Gillian to gain the education and experience necessary for her to figure out how she wanted to proceed and where she fit into the worker’s rights movement. Now halfway through the semester long program, Gillian is learning tons of new material every day, both from her internship and from her classwork. She is extremely grateful for the support of her amazing internmates, her husband, and her cats.
United Federation of Teachers
Alice Oshima, Middlebury College, New York, NY
Writers Guild of America East
My name is Alice Oshima and I am a senior in college. During my sophomore year at Middlebury College, I took Sociology of Labor and Labor Studies, and this course sparked my academic interest in the labor movement. This class, along with my dad being in a union, and my interest in fighting for economic justice and equity led me to the Murphy Institute’s Union Semester. This fall, I am interning with the Writers Guild of America East (WGAE). As part of the WGAE’s organizing drive in non-fiction (or “reality”) television, I have done strategic research — specifically regarding production companies’ show histories, workers in collective bargaining unit positions, and workers’ contact info. I have also done phone-banking, been trained in one-on-one organizing conversations, and just did my first one-on-one with a worker!