The Significance of the TWU and UFT Labor Contracts

Written by James Parrott, the Chief Economist at the Fiscal Policy Institute

For the first time in nearly five years, major labor agreements were recently reached covering public sector workers in New York City. On April 17, Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 concluded a new 5-year contract dating from January 2012 covering 34,000 workers at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), most of whom work for the subway and bus system in New York City. Two weeks later on May 1, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) reached a 9-year agreement with the City of New York stretching back to November 2009 that affects over 100,000 public school teachers and support staff.

Both contracts represented a breakthrough in ending managements’ demands for a 3-year wage freeze that had grown out of a counter-productive post-Great Recession conservative infatuation with public sector austerity, or more precisely, a mindset that held that workers had to sacrifice to help clean up the economic mess caused by financial sector excesses.

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The Burden of Atrocity

We are years into a 13 year Commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, officially underway since May 2012.  If that math seems messy, it is one small indication of the  long, deep, and still confounding legacy of that war.  Faculty member Penny Lewis wrote about our memory of the class dynamics of the antiwar movement in her book, Hardhats, Hippies and Hawks: The Vietnam Antiwar Movement as Myth and Memory (Cornell University Press, 2013), and returns to the subject in a review essay published in Jacobin and Salon this past week. 

Testifying in 1971 as part of the Winter Soldier Investigation, a war crimes hearing sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton distinguished the American war in Vietnam from other conflicts:

There’s a quality of atrocity in this war that goes beyond that of other wars in that the war itself is fought as a series of atrocities. There is no distinction between an enemy whom one can justifiably fire at and people whom one murders in less than military situations.

Concluding this thought by reflecting on the experience of soldiers and veterans, Lifton observed, “Now if one carries this sense of atrocity with one, one carries the sense of descent into evil.” Continue reading The Burden of Atrocity

Welcome to The Murphy Institute Blog

We are thrilled to be launching the Murphy Institute Blog.  The Joseph S. Murphy Institute (JSMI), part of the School of Professional Studies at the City University of New York, comes out of a singular collaboration among labor unions, city workers, community organizations and academic institutions and their faculty and staff. JSMI is the place where people who make the city run come to study how to make New York and the rest of the world a better place to live in and to work.

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Progressive Urban Policy Meets Albany: 2014

Eve Baron is the Academic Program Manager of Urban Studies at The Murphy Institute

New York City Mayor de Blasio came into office on a platform to rewrite the city’s “Tale of Two Cities,” a reference to the stark and growing differences between the life chances of the city’s rich and poor. One of his first policy initiatives was focused on children—universal pre- kindergarten. Universal pre-k programs have long been seen by education advocates as critical to children’s future academic and social success, and critical to support the needs of working parents. De Blasio was successful, in that New York State Governor Cuomo agreed to a budget deal this year that would fund universal pre-k, yet the Mayor failed to reach his goal of a permanent funding stream—he was not able to persuade the state legislature to allow the city to levy higher taxes on the wealthy to pay for the program. Short of that, NYC’s pre-k programs will need to be re-funded each budget cycle. Perhaps even bigger are  questions of gaining autonomy over the tax levy process—if NYC had more control, could we enact a more broadly progressive agenda—one that included pre-k and low-cost housing, after-school programs and infrastructure funding, for example?

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March with the PSC on May Day—Thurs., May 1

Demand $5K for CUNY’s Low-Wage Workers

Demand Fair Contracts, Fair Wages and Job Security for All Working People

Adjuncts, full timers, faculty, and staff—we need your presence and your indomitable spirit at the May Day march and rally, Thurs., May 1, 5:00 p.m., starting at City Hall. As part of a national mobilization, academic unions like the PSC and UUP, are demanding a minimum starting salary of $5,000 per course for adjuncts. May Day, the international workers’ day of action, is the perfect time to make the $5K demand visible in our city and link the struggle of college adjuncts to that of New York’s other low-wage workers. It’s also a day to stand with our partners in the city labor movement who, like us, are working without a contract, and with immigration activists who, like us, are fighting for the NYS Dream Act and a better life for the next generation of New Yorkers.

Plan to meet your PSC friends and colleagues at 4:30 p.m. at the southwest corner of Broadway and Chambers St. Download the May Day $5K flier and the general May Day flier.  RSVP and More Info. 

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.” (www.whitehouse.gov, 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.

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