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Introducing Spring 2015 NY Union Semester Students

As we start off the new year, we welcome a new Union Semester class!  Before we all meet in person next week, we wanted to share a sneak preview! Introducing the Spring 2015 class….

For information on joining the class of fall 2015, find us at www.unionsemester.org.


Rebekah Williams, NY
Rebekah Williams is  nineteen years old, and a junior at Baruch College. She is from the beautiful Caribbean island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines located in the Lesser Antilles region of the Caribbean. She  currently resides in Queens. She enjoys doing many things such as, singing, drawing, playing one of several instruments, and making her own clothes; but most of all she loves to help others.  She decided to join the Union Semester program to combine her passion for learning and helping others. Her goals for this program are to gain a better understanding of how labour organizations function and the role they play in helping the millions of workers in New York City.  She also hopes to assist the organization and those affected by the work of the organization through her diligent and goal oriented work ethic.

Rebekah is interning at the 1199 SEIU Training and Upgrading Fund.


Ian Conde, CA
Ian Conde was born and raised in the Bay Area.  He is a recent Alumni of San Francisco State University. He is also a member of the League of Filipino Students, a member organization of BAYAN-USA.  His main motivation for joining CUNY Union Semester is to learn more about the struggle of workers locally in this country and the opportunity to be able to contribute to the overall workers movement internationally. 

Ian is interning at the Professional Staff Congress-CUNY, AFT 2334.


Jay Dean, OH
Originally from the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio Jay Dean has lived many places around the country and briefly overseas. He received a Bachelors in Science from Montana State University in Secondary Education Social Studies and a Masters in Science from Portland State University in Sociology, where he specialized in privatization and labor.   He is interested in the issue of income inequality and believes working with a labor union represents the “front lines” in the fight to gain better opportunity and access to wealth for the working class.  He views the Union Semester Program as opening a door to the labor movement in that it will give him the skills he needs to be an effective labor advocate.

Jay is interning at the Center for Popular Democracy.


Justin Hamano, PA
Originally from Philadelphia, Justin has lived in New York for the past 8 years. He graduated from NYU with a degree in English in 2009 and has been working ever since. Most recently, he worked for the New York State Assembly as a constituent liaison. Prior to that he was Program Associate for the Retail Action Project, a labor non-profit. He is a strong believer in labor’s power to create social and economic justice and looking forward to the semester!

Justin is interning at the 1199 SEIU Research Department.


Dale Morgan,  MA
Dale is originally from southeast Massachusetts. Currently he is a student at The New School where he is focusing on political theory and praxis. Union Semester seems to be a logical and necessary step in continuing this study.

Dale is interning at the United Federation of Teachers, PROSE project.


Samantha Francois, NY
Samantha is originally from Brooklyn, New York and is a recent graduate from the Psychology program at SUNY New Paltz. By majoring in Psychobiology and minoring in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, she combined her interests in social justice and science, more specifically concerning the role of both in healthcare. She became interested in the Union Semester Program to gain more knowledge and experience concerning the labor history, as well as its intersectionality to other areas of study and life.  

Samantha is interning at Build Up NYC.


Kieran Joseph, AZ
Kieran Joseph was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. He studies Economics and Public Policy at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. He decided to attend the Union Semester program to build a better understanding of the conditions and structures that the labor movement fights against, and to develop the skills to become a leader in fighting for something better.

Kieran is interning at the New York Central Labor Council.

Hanalei Ramos taken by AnnaMarie Vu

Hanalei Ramos, NJ
Hanalei is native of Jersey City, NJ and completed her B.A. in Labor and Industrial Relations from Penn State University. As a community organizer, was drawn to  Union Semester to learn the best practices that can be applied to community organizing models and campaigns. This spring, she hopes to gain a better understanding of the New York City labor landscape, improve as an organizer, and explore the intersection between organized labor and immigrant workers.

Hanalei is interning at the New York Communities for Change Communications Department. 


Eduardo Alpizar, FL
Eduardo Alpizar is from Tallahassee Florida by way of Miami. He is a graduate of Florida State University with a B.S. in Political Science.  He decided to attend the Union Semester in order to be reintroduced to the labor and continue a life of activism, advocacy, and solidarity.

Eddy is interning at the Committee of Interns and Residents, SEIU.


Dzindzi Asamoah-Wade, NY
Dzindzi Asamoah-Wade grew up Rochester, New York. She moved to New York City to attend City College where she is an International Studies Major with a concentration in Culture and Communication, Psychology minor and Black Studies minor. She decided to join NY Union Semester to take what she has learned during her undergraduate career about the cultural, political and economic factors applicable to the history of labor, and the Labor Movement and be able to apply it in an enriching, hands on setting.

Dzindzi is interning at the Transport Workers Union Local 100 Political Action department.


Matthew Hillyer, IL
Matthew Hillyer first organized a student walkout as a high school student in solidarity with the teacher’s union strike over contract negotiations in Chicago, IL.  After serving in the United States Armed Forces he enrolled at the University of Illinois and completed a degree in English Education, taught college level reading and writing for two years at the high school from which he graduated and embarked on a national performing arts tour, that fused the American Entrepreneurial spirit with radical-self-reliance.  This experience eventually lead him to the real watershed moment of his life, the Occupy movement, and disaster relief efforts following Hurricane Sandy.  He is a sitting member on the workplace justice committee for the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, and shop steward for the food service workers union Unite Here Local 100 AFL-CIO at the Barclays Center, in Brooklyn.  His motivation for applying to the CUNY Union Semester program is the culmination of working through the trials and errors of social justice activism, and as a volunteer-organizer in grassroots movements and campaigns.  

Matthew is interning at the NYC District Council of Carpenters, Communication department.


Alina Shen, NY
Alina Shen is from New York City, and spent most her life between the privileged and competitive specialized high school test-prep culture and Asian American immigrant enclaves. She goes to school at City College under Macaulay Honors College studying Critical Social Change under the CUNY BA program. She is joining Union Semester to learn more about immigrant labor history and coalition building between community organizations. She is also really excited about the active and practical application of labor studies in union work. 

Alina is interning at the Transport Workers Union Local 100 Education department.


Jada Boyd, FL
Jada is originally from Florida but has lived many places due to her mother being in the army. Here background is in Critical Social Theory and Environmental Justice. She chose the union semester program because labor is a central ideology that shapes our lives and she believes union semester will be a great opportunity to gain a better experience and understanding of the theory and praxis of labor organizing.

Jada is interning at the Communications Workers of America, District 1 and Local 1180.


Vanlyn Turner Ramsay, TN

Vanlyn is interning at the Fight for 15 campaign.


Not pictured:

Anu Biswas, who is interning at UNITE HERE Global Campaigns.

Jeremy Oziel, who is interning at New York Communities for Change, WASH NYC campaign.

Afrah Aden, who is interning at the Writers Guild of America East.


Two Days, One Night Movie Review

If you can find the time – and cash – this January, and are lucky to be somewhere with good movie theaters, I highly recommend checking out the new movie by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Two Days, One Night. (In NYC it’s playing at the IFC for now.) It’s a quiet, multilayered film that I’ve continued to think about since watching last week.

A woman (Marion Cotillard, in an incredible performance) is told that she’s lost her job unless she can convince her co-workers at a solar panel manufacturing company in Belgium to give up their bonuses in exchange for bringing her back on. The movie is the story of the weekend she has to make the case to her colleagues, who she visits one by one across small towns and industrial suburbs where they live. I don’t want to give too much away, as it’s the kind of movie that invites reflection, and I think is great to see and chew on yourself. But I’ll make some observations here about what I’ve thought about these past few days.

Continue reading Two Days, One Night Movie Review

Journalists Gather to Discuss Labor and the Elections at Murphy

Last Friday, Sarah Jaffe, Juan Gonzalez, Errol Louis, Michael Hirsch and Ed Ott participated in a panel discussion in front of a packed house here at Murphy. The panelists analyzed the 2014 midterm elections, looking at what happened this time around and discussing the implications for the future.

Miss the Forum? Check out the livestream, embedded below and archived on our new YouTube channel.


Dead Labor on a Dead Planet: The Inconvenient Truth of Workers’ Bladders

This article was originally featured in Monthly Review Zine.

By Kafui Attoh

“Once labor has been embodied in instruments of production and enters the further process of labor to play its role there, it may be called, following Marx, dead labor [. . .]. The ideal toward which capitalism strives is the domination of dead labor over living labor.” — Harry Braverman
“[T]here are no jobs on a dead planet.” — Bill McKibben

In a recent essay in New Labor Forum, authors Jeremy Brecher, Ron Blackwell, and Joe Uehlein urge the labor movement to take a more active role in the fight against climate change. Many unions, they lament, have been reluctant to engage the issue, and indeed others have actively taken positions at odds with the climate movement’s most basic tenets. Where unions have been asked to choose between job security and the environment, many have understandably chosen the former. In this fraught context, the authors argue that unions must not only work to reveal the “jobs versus environment” choice as a false one, but that they must do so by developing a climate protection strategy of their own. Continue reading Dead Labor on a Dead Planet: The Inconvenient Truth of Workers’ Bladders

Fall 2014 NY Union Semester Students

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.

StalnakerErin 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

SanchezFrancis 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.

HaviarasCleopatra 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

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.

Zac Smith at #Flood Wall Street
Zachary Smith
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.

Melissa Best
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.

Tehmiena Lughmani
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.

Union Semestersval
Samantha Valente
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.

Michael McCown
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. 

Alexi and Paloma
Alexi Shalom
Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union

Gillian marching with the PSC-CUNY
Gillian Rothchild
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.

A. Koren
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!

Rev. Al Sharpton Talks Protest and Policing at Murphy

Earlier this semester, a full house attended a special forum entitled “From Protest to Policy: Policing in Communities of Color,” kicking off the Fall 2014 Labor Breakfast Forum series at the Murphy Institute.

The event was moderated by CUNY Prof. John Mollenkopf and featured the Reverend Al Sharpton, who talked about the controversial policing tactics seen in present-day and past New York City, the effect these tactics have had on minority communities as well as the effect they have on the overall crime rate, and the quality of life for all New York City residents. The discussion also looked at arrest trends and potential public policy interventions.

Reverend Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network, is an American Baptist minister, civil rights activist, and television/radio talk show host. In 2004, he was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. presidential election. He hosts his own radio talk show, Keepin’ It Real, and he makes regular guest appearances on Fox News (such as on The O’Reilly Factor), CNN, and MSNBC. In 2011, he was named the host of MSNBC’s PoliticsNation, a nightly talk show.