Tag Archives: feature

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

The Labor Question

By Joshua Freeman

In a Labor Day op-ed article in the NY Daily News, I argued that even as unions have suffered a series of setbacks and continue to slip in the percentage of workers they represent, labor issues are more prominent now than at any time in the recent past. What we are seeing might be called the re-emergence of “the labor question.” (New York is somewhat exceptional because, as the Murphy Institute’s Ruth Milkman and Stephanie Luce show in a forthcoming study reported in The New York Times, union membership in the city has been rising significantly of late.)

“The labor question” was once a common term, widely used in the early 20th century. On the simplest level, it asked how orderly relations could be maintained between employers and employees, preventing the outbursts of labor strife that had become common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Continue reading The Labor Question

Should Labor Boycott Israel?

Whose Side Are You On?

By Andrew Ross

The BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) campaign is shaping up as one of these historical moments when everyone has to choose which side they are on. Trade unionists have good reason to know what this feels like. Labor history is punctuated with similar contests, when nuanced views on strategy have run their course and we are left with a stark moral choice. For too long, the debate about how best to oppose the occupation of Palestine has been clouded, often intentionally, by strenuous deliberations over tactics. As for those in official positions, the formidable sway of pro-Zionist lobbying has been disturbingly effective. Elected politicians have AIPAC watching their every move, and high officialdom within the AFL-CIO has the Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) to placate. As Richard Trumka put it plainly at a JLC dinner gathering in 2009: “Tonight, let me tell you that, so long as I’m president, you will never have a stronger ally than the AFL-CIO. That’s why we’re proud to stand with the JLC to oppose boycotting Israel.”

Read The Full Debate Here

Engage, Don’t Divest from Israel
By Jo-Ann Mort

Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its continued control of movement in Gaza is unjust and inhumane. It must be ended as quickly as possible. Israel and Palestine must exist as two states side by side. How can this be achieved? I don’t believe that boycotting

Israel, or the overall BDS prescription for change, is the correct response—not for the labor movement, nor for other movements or individuals.

The current Israeli government is a right-wing government with a smattering of centrist parties devolved from a very complex—and partly dysfunctional—parliamentary system. I don’t support it. But boycotting this government will only make it stronger. That’s because the tendency inside Israel—and especially on the right—is to hunker down in response to boycotts. Poll numbers rise for the right when there are visible attacks on Israel, and savvy politicians—especially Israel’s Prime Minister—make ample use of these opportunities to strengthen their own base at the expense of the left.

Read The Full Debate Here

Photo by ☪yrl via flickr (CC-BY-NC).

DC37 Reaches Out About WTC Health Program

By Liam Lynch

In true labor-community partnership fashion, the DC 37 Safety and Health Department is using a federal grant to get the word out about the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program established by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. This bill is designed to improve health services and provide financial compensation for 9/11 first responders and survivors. DC 37 is partnering with local businesses and organizations to make the city healthier for the many union members and New Yorkers affected. The poster outreach effort is led by New York Union Semester alum and current Murphy MA student Liam Lynch. Union Semester students will take part in a day of outreach during their orientation at the end of the August. If interested in joining us, stay tuned to the Facebook page.

DC 37’s Safety and Health Department is part of a federal initiative to conduct outreach for the WTC Health Program. When the federal government took over the program after the passage of the James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act of 2010, the Safety & Health Department received a federal grant to specifically conduct outreach about the existence of the program to their membership and AFSCME affiliates.

Thirteen years after the attacks of September 11th, the aftermath remains a major public health concern for responders and survivors. AFSCME members, who were among the first responders, are now experiencing illnesses related to their response work and are in need of quality healthcare for their 9/11-related health conditions. In the years after the attack, DC 37 — together with AFSCME’s Federal Government Affairs Department in Washington, DC — helped craft and lobby for the federal health program as part of its efforts to get Congress to approve the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. DC 37 received a federal grant to inform responders and survivors of the health program, and created a website and Facebook page about it. Continue reading DC37 Reaches Out About WTC Health Program

NLRB Rules McDonalds Jointly Liable for Franchisees

What’s the relationship between corporations and their franchisees? That’s the question at hand in the latest ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

In a decision first reported by the Associated Press on Tuesday, General Counsel for the NLRB ruled that McDonald’s is jointly responsible for the actions of its franchise restaurants — creating a precedent that could have far-reaching implications for fast-food workers and national labor organizing in general.

According to an article by Steven Greenhouse in Portside:

If upheld, the general counsel’s move would give the fast-food workers and the main labor group backing them, the Service Employees International Union, more leverage in their effort to unionize McDonald’s restaurants and to increase hourly wages. The average fast-food wage is about $8.90 an hour.

Read more at Portside

Photo by Fibonacci Blue via flickr (CC-BY).

Unions Backing Historic People’s Climate March

By Jeremy Brecher

Delegates to Connecticut State Council of Machinists (CSCM) conference at the end of June voted unanimously to endorse and participate in the historic People’s Climate March set for Sunday, September 21, 2014 in Manhattan. This was just the most recent of a growing number of union endorsements for the March. New York area locals endorsing the March by June 20 included:

CWA District 1
CWA 1180
Teamsters Joint Council 16
Local 3 IBEW
DC37
SEIU 32BJ
TWU 100
Heat and Frost Insulators
UAW Region 9
NYSNA
Brotherhood of Maintenance and Way, Teamsters
SEIU 1199

These are just the pioneers: Many more endorsements, local and national, are expected.

 
The Peoples Climate March

On September 21, union members will march side-by-side with tens of thousands of their neighbors, friends and family members for a future with good jobs, clean air, and healthy communities for all.

The March coincides with a September 23 global summit on climate change called by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, frustrated at the slow pace of progress on this crucial issue. Ban Ki-moon will propose an aggressive global pact to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2015.

The invitation to the March says:

“With our future on the line and the whole world watching, we’ll take a stand to bend the course of history. We’ll take to the streets to demand the world we know is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities. To change everything, we need everyone on board.”

 
Labor on the March

Labor supporters of the march are encouraging union members, their families and their friends to participate in the September 21 March as proud union members and labor allies who are both concerned for our communities and determined to make a difference. An unprecedented array of forces for climate, economic justice and environmental justice including labor, community, environmental, human rights, faith, and arts organizations are coming together for this march.

Labor participants explain that climate change must be considered a labor issue – and an issue of social justice. When Super Storm Sandy hit the northeast in October 2012, we experienced firsthand the devastating impacts of a rapidly changing global climate. It destroyed communities and also revealed the vulnerabilities and inequities that existed before the storm for working New Yorkers. Sandy showed us that climate change is here and that if we do nothing the most vulnerable will be the hardest hit. Working people, the poor, the young, the old, women, immigrants, and people of color are all suffering disproportionately, yet together gain the least from the current patterns of investment and neglect.

Like the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom identified with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this march will emphasize the centrality of jobs to other forms of progress – in this case climate progress. It will send the message that the two crises of the climate and the economy have one solution – put people to work making our economy climate-safe.

Labor supporters of the March maintain that we can create good paying union jobs that address the climate crisis by reducing our emissions and transition us to a sustainable, equitable economy with energy efficient buildings, improved and expanded public transit systems, renewables-based power, sustainable waste systems, and much more. Addressing the climate crisis is an opportunity to reduce unemployment, grow our unions, improve our community’s health and restore balance to our environment. It’s also an opportunity to challenge the 1% and corporate CEO’s who are responsible for both attacking our unions and polluting our environment and causing climate change. They are the main reason why the United Nations has failed to reach a binding global agreement on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

 
Connecticut Machinists

The Connecticut State Council of Machinists delegates who voted to support the March represent more than 10,000 active and retired Machinists Union members in Connecticut from industrial sites including Pratt & Whitney, Hamilton Sundstrand, Electric Boat, Stanley Works and other IAM-represented workplaces around the state.

CT State Council President John Harrity said: “Let’s be clear. Climate change is the most important issue facing all of us for the rest of our lives. And as the resolution points out, working families and the poor will bear the brunt the catastrophic consequences we are already beginning to experience.”

Harrity continued, “I am proud of the CSCM delegates, and their clear understanding of how crucial this issue is. I am hoping that hundreds of Connecticut Machinists can make the short trip to New York for this historic event. When our kids, and grandkids, ask ‘What did you do to help stop this disaster?’ which they will surely ask if we do not take drastic steps immediately – Machinists Union activists can say, ‘We helped save the world. We were there on September 21.’”

 
Here is the text of the Connecticut Machinists’ resolution:

RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF THE PEOPLE’S CLIMATE MARCH

WHEREAS, world leaders are coming to New York City on September 23 for a historic United Nations summit on climate change and Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon will call for governments to agree on an ambitious agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions before the end of 2015; and

WHEREAS, an unprecedented array of groups representing climate, economic justice, environmental justice, human rights, labor, faith, and the arts are uniting for the People’s Climate March on Sunday, September 21; and

WHEREAS, the rapidly changing climate is impacting union members and working communities in New York as we experienced firsthand with the devastating impacts of Sandy; and

WHEREAS, we recognize that working people will suffer disproportionately from the current patterns of investment and neglect that do not prioritize good jobs, clean air, and healthy communities;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, to endorse the People’s Climate March and support the demand for an ambitious, binding, and fair agreement for emission reductions to foster a sustainable adaptation to the effects of climate change; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, to encourage union members, and also their families and friends, to participate in the march as proud union members and also encourage participation in the other events around the UN Climate Summit on September 23rd movement to address the challenge of climate change.

PASSED UNANIMOUSLY BY CT STATE COUNCIL OF MACHINISTS DELEGATES ON JUNE 21, 2014.

Photo by kris krug via flickr (CC-BY-NC-ND).