Category Archives: Workforce

Labor History: A Key to Making Bad Jobs Better

By Rebecca Lurie

This summer, the Pinkerton Foundation released a new paper called “Make Bad Jobs Better: Forging a “Better Jobs” Strategy,” by Steven L. Dawson. Dawson argues that the tightening labor market and improving economy offer new opportunities for organizers, educators and workers to bargain harder and “make bad jobs better.” Here, Rebecca Lurie, Program Director for the Community and Worker Ownership Project at the Murphy Institute, responds:

This Pinkerton Paper sings my song! Words like dignity, agency, organizing, self-worth, stability, respect are music to my ears. When workforce development can build pathways to this we do much more than create one job placement at a time. We contribute to the work of building a more just society, rooted in self-actualization and empowerment. Continue reading Labor History: A Key to Making Bad Jobs Better

In Search of a Model: Workforce Development in Corporate America

How have decades of union busting, “right-to-work” and the decline of organized labor affected workforce development? According to Corporate America beat back its best job trainers, and now it’s paying a price, a post on the Washington Post’s Wonkblog by Lydia DePillis, they’ve led to a decline in overall job preparedness — alongside an ever-growing need for an educated workforce.  DePillis writes:

Although unions have historically constructed high-quality educational pipelines to well-paying jobs in cooperation with employers, labor has lost ground over the years. In the absence of union training programs, businesses in vast sectors of the economy are scrambling to meet their workforce needs through other means, like piecemeal job training programs and partnerships with community colleges, with few solutions that have really broad reach.

Over the years, [costs have] shifted to workers and the public education system. Companies in general have been spending less on training, as jobs have grown more transitory. Companies don’t see the point in investing in someone who’ll only stick around for a few years, if that, particularly when economic prospects are uncertain. So, at a time when manufacturing requires more sophisticated knowledge, the companies have found themselves without a base of trained workers, leading to complaints about a “skills gap.”

For the full article, visit the Washington Post.


Photo by Bill Jacobus via flickr (CC-BY).

Challenging Racism at Work

This post was originally published in the Spring 2015 issue of New Labor Forum

By Sarah Jaffe

Cameron McLay became chief of police in Pittsburgh in September 2014, tasked by new mayor Bill Peduto with cleaning up the department, after its former chief wound up in federal prison for corruption. This put him in charge at a time when the Black Lives Matter protests erupted across the country, calling for an end to police brutality, racial profiling, and the deaths of unarmed black people at the hands of police officers. When the chief met some of those activists, with the group What’s Up?! Pittsburgh, at community festivities, he posed, in uniform, for an Instagram photo with one of their signs. It read: “I resolve to challenge racism @ work. #EndWhiteSilence.” The photo looked to many like a rare example of a police officer supporting the message of the protesters — the mayor told reporters that he immediately reposted the picture to his own Facebook page.

Continue reading Challenging Racism at Work

What does it mean for public education, CUNY, and the city when top immigrant and minority students can’t get into our best schools?  

Editor’s Note (4.13.15): The original article from the Atlantic has been significantly revised due to framing and factual errors regarding acceptance and enrollment trends. You can read the latest response from Jay Hershenson, Senior Vice Chancellor for University Relations and Secretary of the Board of Trustees at CUNY, here.

In “When Being a Valedictorian Isn’t Enough,” LynNell Hancock and Meredith Kolodner explore the ramifications of the raising of admission standards at the top-five CUNY colleges – Baruch, Hunter, Brooklyn, Queens, and City.  CUNY’s top schools increasingly admit a disproportionate number of white and Asian freshmen, while admitting fewer students from New York City’s high schools.  This drive to increase the prestige of the top-five schools has left New York’s black and Latino high school students crowding into two-year community colleges with much lower chances of ever successful completing a Bachelor’s degree.  Hancock and Kolodner examine the impact on the changes on New York City’s students, high schools, and on the community at large.  Who is getting left behind by a system that less-and-less reflects the demographic make-up of New York’s public schools…and is there a way out?

You can find a response to this article from CUNY here.

Angela Davis May Day Statement: Saving the Graduate Center for Worker Education

This article was originally posted by Portside on May 1, 2014

I join with the many students, faculty, labor leaders and elected officials who call upon Brooklyn College President Karen Gould to restore the Graduate Center for Worker Education to its full academic glory as a leading graduate program for New York’s working class. The GCWE developed generations of labor, legal, academic and political leaders and activists for over 30 years.

The recent tragic destruction of the Graduate Center for Worker Education and the wholesale purging of progressive faculty, staff and graduate students is an unconscionable assault on an invaluable urban working class institution. Brooklyn College also ended its support for the Center’s  esteemed peer review journal “Working USA”. Reminiscent of the McCarthy era, under the pretext of administratively prosecuting Professor Joseph Wilson, and tellingly, without any substantiated legal or administrative findings, Brooklyn College used the attack as a cover to dismantle the Worker Education program.

Continue reading Angela Davis May Day Statement: Saving the Graduate Center for Worker Education

Workforce Development Helping to Bridge the Gap

Eve Baron is the Acting Associate Director for Worker Education and the Academic Program Manager, Urban Studies

In addition to early childhood development programs, building the income-earning capacity of our urban workforce is a critical part of building a more equitable society. Workforce development programs—those that are designed to update and sharpen existing skills, or to develop new skills that respond to specific sectoral needs—are at the forefront of city, state, and now federal policy. President Obama sees these programs as a central part of his economic development policy, arguing that skills and credentials are increasingly critical for the American workforce, and that “jobs requiring at least an associate degree are projected to grow twice as fast as jobs requiring no college experience.” (, accessed April 29, 2014) The quality and quantity of those jobs notwithstanding, the fear is that if businesses cannot find skilled American workers, they will relocate.

Continue reading Workforce Development Helping to Bridge the Gap