Tag Archives: cuny

Building Power before Janus – And After: Lessons from CUNY

This article was originally featured at Labor Notes.

Want to learn more about public sector unionism? Join us for a one day conference on November 17th, “Janus and Beyond: The Future of Public Sector Unions.”

By Luke Elliott-Negri

As recently as 2014, just 22 percent of my co-workers were members of our chapter in our big wall-to-wall union. The rest—some 1,242 employees—paid the “agency fee,” which for us is the same as membership dues. The chapter had been defunct for several years. Few bothered to explain to new employees why it mattered to join and what power might come from engagement.

Both because of the right-wing assault in the form of legal cases like Janus v. AFSCME—the Supreme Court case that will make the whole public sector “right-to-work” by next year—but also because this is what unions should be doing anyway, a group of us set out to change these numbers. Continue reading Building Power before Janus – And After: Lessons from CUNY

A Warm Welcome to the Fall 2017 Union Semester Class!


Michael Devan
Michael is a recent graduate of Queens College, where he double-majored in Political Science and Philosophy. As an undergraduate, Michael organized with student-led groups such as the Student Organization for Democratic Alternatives and the Students’ Empowerment Party, which sought to build concrete institutions for the implementation of student power. Finding many analogues between the respective student and labor struggles in NY and elsewhere, Michael wishes to employ what he knows about student organizing in the union community through policy research and direct democratic grassroots engagement.

 

Chava Friedland
Chava Friedland is 21 years old and majoring in Science and Technology studies at Wesleyan University. Chava has spent many years at a Jewish socialist summer camp speaking with friends and educating campers about many aspects of social justice. Chava’s interest in participating in Union Semester is to apply academic knowledge more concretely to the world and learn how to be a better activist and community builder. Chava is excited to dig deeply into the specifics of labor history and labor issues in the US, as well as devote energy to union organizing in the coming months!

 

Henry Green
Henry Green grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He graduated last spring from Columbia University, where he majored in Comparative Literature and completed an independent study on the Haitian Revolution. Henry gained experience working on political campaigns in college, where he was a member of Jewish Voice for Peace and participated in planning and launching a divestment campaign. After graduating college, he worked as an English teacher in France as well as with the non-profit Our Revolution to oppose right-wing candidates in the French presidential election. Henry has experience doing corporate research, and has completed a report on Spirit Airlines for an AFL-CIO/Cornell strategic research training program this past summer.

 

Amber Grof
Amber is a proud Nuyorican, originally from the Lower East Side. She is a senior at Hunter College, with a major in Sociology and minor in Human Rights. She comes from a background in the non-profit sector with a focus on community organizing, advocacy and education. Amber is excited to partake in the Union Semester to learn more about the historical roots and modern day practices of labor organizing to better hone her skills as an organizer and contribute in solidarity to the labor movement.

 

Nate Joseph
Nate is from the Los Angeles area, and recently graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a BA in Sociology with a minor in Political Science. In addition to his studies, he has been involved in organizing work with the ANSWER Coalition. Nate is deeply interested in studying and building international labor and social movement solidarity in the fight for global progressive change. He is excited to participate in the Union Semester program so as to become a more effective activist and scholar through engaging in the struggle in this critical time.

 

Sean Keith
Sean Keith recently completed his second year at Northeastern University as a BA-MA combined History student with a minor in Chinese. His areas of academic interest are America and China, and he is specifically interested in labor history, economic history, political economy, and the history of social movements. He is a proud member of Northeastern’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and is on the organizing committee for the newly formed Democratic Socialists of America Libertarian Socialist Caucus (DSA-LSC). As a libertarian socialist, Sean is particularly passionate about union democracy, or the general democratization of unions through processes like participatory budgeting and developments like rank-and-file battles against conservative labor leaderships and bureaucracies. He also has a burgeoning interest in Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), or more specifically the radical policy implications of left-wing post-Keynesian thought.

 

Janet Kwon
Janet is a native of California’s Central Valley. This past summer, she was a Chun Tae-Il Korean Organizing Fellow in Los Angeles at Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA), a multi-ethnic worker center organizing low-wage Latinx and Korean workers. As the child of Korean immigrants, she is interested in the ways that immigrant workers can fight for their rights and empower their communities from within. After graduating from the University of Chicago in 2014 with a degree in Art History, she spent the past three years working in the art world in New York. Observing how workers in this industry were subject to unjust and exploitative practices spurred her to reconsider what her work would be in service of, which led her to join the labor movement. She is interested in the improvement of working and living conditions of low-wage immigrant workers and intersections of race, class, and gender. In her free time she enjoys reading, walking aimlessly, and she volunteers at the 4th Street Food Co-op in lower Manhattan.

 

Margit Lindgren
Originally from Norway, Margit Lindgren is a recent graduate from New York University in Abu Dhabi. She engaged with labor issues in the Gulf during her studies in Abu Dhabi and conducted research on labor movements following the discovery of oil in Kuwait. She is excited to get more hands on experience with labor organizing during her time at CUNY’s Union Semester.

 

Austin Michaels
Austin recently graduated from the University of Denver with a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies and Philosophy. A lifelong fascination with politics led Austin to study them first on the international level, and later on a theoretical basis. Austin sees the labor movement as the natural venue in which to pursue transformative, radically democratic politics in service of the greatest good and is excited to begin working toward this goal.

 

Caring Okonkwo
Caring Okonkwo is a graduate of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She was born in Nigeria and stays in the Bronx . Caring’s reason for joining New York Union Semester is to learn more about workers’ rights and to help make a difference regarding workers’ movements globally.

 

Maia Rosenberg
Maia grew up in Colorado where she spent years training in classical ballet. She attended Goucher College in Baltimore for a year and a half before leaving to intern with Organizing 2.0, in order to learn more about digital organizing and activism. Most recently, Maia has been involved in organizing resistance efforts in DC against the current administration, and plays a logistical role in the People’s Summit and the upcoming Organizing 2.0 conferences. Previously she was involved in anti-fracking work in her home town in CO, as well as anti-dark money and electoral work in Tennessee, where she joined the local chapter of DSA. She is also a founder of the recently formed Socialist Artists Alliance. Maia is looking forward to delving deeper into labor history and organizing over the next few months.

 

Andrew Stebenné
Andrew grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, and decided to study Computer Science and Comparative Cultural Studies, but, seeing what’s going on in the world, decided it was important to take a moment and focus his energy on learning to organize, both in labor and socially. He believes the fights which are coming will be huge and important, which is why he applied to Union Semester.

 

Michael Ángel Rodríguez Vázquez
Originally from the suburbs of Los Angeles, Michael Ángel is a second year graduate student at UC San Diego. Prior to coming to NYC, he spent five years as an educator, including three as a teacher. Over the years he has developed strong interests in culturally responsive education and comprehensive immigration reform; with these in mind, he would one day like to serve as a high school principal in Southern California. Ultimately, Michael Ángel hopes this experience will help him best advocate for migrants, teachers, and students of color.

 

Nate Vosburg
Born and raised in rural Iowa, Nate comes to the Union Semester with various campaign experience throughout the Midwest. As an undergrad at the University of Kansas, he studies Political Science with a concentration in statistics. Outside of school, he has volunteered with Black Lives Matter-LFK as well as the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus. Nate is excited to develop as an activist and organizer while exploring the general labor movement as a career path.

 

Janée White
Janée White was born and raised in New York City. A deep interest in sexual education led her to her position at Babeland as a Sales Associate/ Sex Educator, where she aided in building an organizing committee and served as a shop delegate after Babeland won the vote for union representation by the RWDSU. Her participation in Union Semester will help her determine how she can best serve the labor movement going forward.

Excelsior: Free Tuition for Whom?

By Steve Brier

If you’ve at all been confused about or even impressed by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s widely touted Excelsior Scholarship program that was just voted into law by the New York State legislature, a good place to start to deal with your questions and concerns is Lauren Gurley’s article in the May issue of The Indypendent, “Free Higher Ed for a Few.”

Gurley’s piece reveals the ways Excelsior serves as a giveaway to NY State’s middle class taxpayers — especially those who would like to send their kids to SUNY schools — while denying real and much-needed support to CUNY’s working-class and poor students who will hardly benefit from Excelsior, given the scholarship’s extremely restrictive terms. Cuomo is trying to burnish his progressive credential in anticipation for his 2020 run for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.

Gurley interviewed me at length for the piece and I’m quoted a few times, including the final statement:

“We made a commitment as a nation in the post-World War II period that public education would be free and available to everyone who was interested in pursuing it. And we created institutions like city colleges, junior colleges and state colleges […] It was a different world. And that is the world, I would argue, that we should go back to.”

For the full article, visit The Indypendent.

You can also listen to Lauren Gurley´s article on iTunes or Soundcloud as part of a the new Indy Audio podcast, where you can listen to articles from The Indypendent.

 

Photo by MTA via flickr (CC-BY)

 

Murphy Prof. Steve Brier in NYTimes Editorial on CUNY

What’s the future of CUNY? To understand what might come, it helps to look at what’s passed. How did CUNY become what it is today? What’s at stake in preserving an autonomous CUNY?

An editorial by the Editorial Board of the New York Times today starts to tell the story, and does so by citing Murphy Consortial Faculty Member Steve Brier’s book, co-authored with Michael Fabricant, “Austerity Blues: Fighting for the Soul of Public Education”:

As the City University professors Stephen Brier and Michael Fabricant explain in their forthcoming history, “Austerity Blues: Fighting for the Soul of Public Higher Education,” Nelson Rockefeller, who essentially built the state’s public higher education system, wanted to absorb New York City’s colleges into the state university system at the beginning of the 1960s.

The proposal met fatal resistance from alumni, business leaders and education officials who had great affection for the city system. They understood the city to be different from the rest of the state, in civic and cultural terms, and considered free tuition essential to much of its population. (Mr. Rockefeller had also proposed charging tuition in exchange for state aid.) The merger idea was dropped, and the city system — renamed The City University of New York in 1961 — remained independent, even though it would receive state support.

The state Legislature took the same view. It gave the state formal control of the city system while recognizing fundamental differences: on the one hand, a loose federation of 64 campuses scattered about the state; on the other, a city system described in state law as an engine of advancement for the poor and disadvantaged and having “the strongest commitment to the special needs of an urban constituency.”

Read the full editorial at NYTimes.com.

Photo by Alex Irklievski (Alex Irklievski) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

On Escalation, Dying-In and the Fight to Fund CUNY

By David Unger

“C-U-N-Y…Don’t Let CUNY Die!”

Over the past few years, we have been lying down on the pavements of New York. In Grand Central Station, in front of Barclay’s Center, in the middle of streets in Brooklyn, near Union Square, in Harlem and in the Bronx.  We have been asked to lie down — to Die In — in order to demand recognition of Black Lives, to condemn violence against and killing of people of color, many of whose names are by now familiar in a tragic way: Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin…and on and on. 

Many times, everyone has been asked to die in, to lie down.  Other times, white allies have been asked to stand in silence.  Either way, the impacted communities have been calling the shots and leading the way. 

At times, the die-ins have been done by “other groups,” including the Fight-for-15, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), and others, marching in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives and calling out the intersection between racial and economic violence. Each time, no matter what intersections have been highlighted, the violence against people of color has been the primary concern of the actions. Continue reading On Escalation, Dying-In and the Fight to Fund CUNY

Gov. Cuomo Announces State Will Fully Fund CUNY Next Year

In a reversal from his recent vow to defund the CUNY system by shifting $485 million in costs onto New York City, Gov. Cuomo’s office announced yesterday that New York State would pay the full $1.6 billion CUNY budget next year, after all. This funding is contingent on the hiring of a management efficiency expert, who will identify new opportunities for cost-cutting.

While heralded as good news by some, many argue that it’s still far from enough. From Gothamist:

“Of course it’s good for CUNY not to face a reduction, but that is just the starting line,” PSC CUNY President Barbara Bowen told Gothamist. “If all that has been accomplished in this budget season is that CUNY is back to where it started in funding, that is not enough…it’s not enough just to say CUNY was saved from a gigantic, devastating cut.”

Yesterday, more than 500 people demonstrated outside Cuomo’s office in midtown Manhattan, demanding that the final state budget, due April 1st, include increased investment in CUNY and fund contracts for the 35,000 CUNY faculty and staff members who they say have worked for years without a raise.

Protestors were confined by police to pens across the street from the office, chanting “C-U-N-Y, don’t let CUNY die,” but dozens exited the pens and staged a die-in directly outside the office building. They laid down in rows, blocking the building entrance, and after police issued three warnings, 41 people were arrested, including Bowen and City Council member Inez Barron, who chairs the City Council’s committee on higher education.

Read the full post at Gothamist.

Photo by hjjanisch via flickr (CC-BY-ND).