Tag Archives: murphy institute

Happy May Day — and Happy Birthday!

It’s May Day again — that’s International Workers’ Day, for those not in the know. Here in NYC, the Guggenheim’s been occupied, Free University’s been liberating education from the university-industrial complex,  the Immigrant Workers Justice Tour has marched through Manhattan and at 5pm, we’ll be Shutting It Down for Freddie Gray, starting at Union Square. (For more on today’s events — of which there are many — check out the calendar at 99pickets.org.)

Here at Murphy, we celebrate May Day as the yearly commemoration of those who have fought for a better life for the working class — while continuing to wage our struggle.

This year’s May Day marks yet another milestone: the one-year anniversary of this blog.  Continue reading Happy May Day — and Happy Birthday!

Murphy Institute Scholarship Recipients

Congratulations to the Murphy Institute’s Spring 2015 Tuition Scholarship recipients! Together, the Labor Studies and Urban Studies MA programs awarded scholarships to 15 students. Get to know some of these students below.

John Becker

John Becker: “History has been a passion of mine since I was young. After 9/11, I felt compelled to read everything regarding the history of humanity. The fundamental question that emerges when one studies the legacy of human struggle, is: “what kind of people hold power and who are the oppressed?”

At first, my enthusiasm for studying labor was restricted to the United States, but soon I became equally curious about organized labor in the international arena. I felt that studying in Cairo, Egypt would be a good place to start. I also hoped to connect with a growing and vitally important labor movement, one that had a regional impact. Egypt had a huge influence on me, and continues to play a lingering role in my life.

When I came back to the States, I thought a lot about how I could be involved in the labor movement here. I then continued to build my experience by interning at Laborers’ Local 1001 in Chicago, which represents the city’s 1,900 municipal employees. This was my first experience in seeing union representation in practice. I spent the summer in Chicago alleyways talking to the garbage men and women on the issues that they faced. It even came to a point where I enjoyed the smell of the garbage because it symbolized to me hard-earned labor, working-class culture, and commitment for the public good!

Now I work for UPS as a part-time pre-loader. I believe this is an important job to have because it is the largest private union employer as well as the second largest private employer in the country. It is represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, perhaps the most powerful union in the United States. What happens at UPS affects the entire national economy. The 1997 UPS Strike proved this by putting almost half of the nation’s parcel deliveries to a halt, forcing UPS to capitulate to the union’s demands. As a rank and file union member, I feel CUNY Murphy is a good place for me to join in helping to rebuild the American labor movement. Solidifying a base is essential to growing the muscle of labor. I think the Murphy Institute is the place for me to focus further on a deeper and more academic understanding of the labor movement and find the potential for today’s labor movement.”

collins“My name is Agninshalah Collins. I have been an employee of the City of New York for the past decade. I am also affiliated with a nonprofit organization called (IAR) In Arms Reach INC, whose mission is to serve low-income, underprivileged youth, with a special focus on children of incarcerated parents. I am a Communications Specialist with 10+ years of experience in a variety of diverse fields. That experience includes nonprofit administration, public relations, crisis management, data analysis, and web development. I represent the interest of workers and fairness, and I am pro-labor. I am the Chapter Chair of the (PCT/SPCT) Police Communications Technicians and Supervising Police Communications Technicians. I am also a Delegate and Shop Steward. This title is significant to the degree that I am the union head of my chapter, overseeing about 1,500 employees whom I am currently organizing to be pro-active instead of re-active. My model is advocacy and organizing for a productive workforce. I am educating my members on union issues and how to advocate for themselves. I believe an educated workforce is an empowered workforce.

I appreciate a challenge. I am a parent who juggles a heavy work schedule, as well as a demanding academic one. My goal upon graduation from the Murphy Institute will be to obtain a career in city government as a Communications Director for the city or a nonprofit, to become a Communications Coordinator or Organizer within a union, or to become the Commissioner of a city agency. My skillset coupled with my education and experience make me a suitable and viable candidate for the titles listed above. I am scheduled to graduate the Cornell Labor Studies Institute with my certificate in Labor Studies in Spring 2015. The knowledge that I have earned through this certificate studies program has been phenomenal in preparing me for a job in the labor field. I decided to enroll in the Murphy Institute Urban Studies program because I felt this program would sharpen my analytical skills and deepen my knowledge of public administration. I am interested in contributing to future policy and want my life’s work to impact some of the greater issues of our times such as poverty, mass incarceration, the gender-pay gap, living wage, real affordable housing, sustainability, and education.”

jacquesWindy Jacques is a Youth Health Educator for the STAR (Safe Teen Acting Responsibly) program at Diaspora Community Services (DCS). She holds a BS in Human Services from New York City College of Technology and is a graduate student in Urban Studies at the Murphy Institute and the School of Professional Studies, CUNY.

She writes: “As a STAR Youth Health Educator, I provide comprehensive sexual health education, pregnancy prevention and positive youth development activities to youth in many New York City partner high schools. Through the STAR Program I empower youth with the knowledge and encouragement to make informed decisions not only about their sexual/reproductive health but about their future goals and plans. I work closely with community partners to increases access to family planning and reproductive health services. I share my passion for community advocacy with the youth and I am helping inspire the next generation of community leaders. We do this by ensuring they have the best chance at graduating high school and going on to college or trade school all while making healthy life choices. My ability to engage the community through a culturally sensitive approach is one of my talents. I am able to raise awareness and educate through groups, workshops and community events.”

 

Sahar KhanSahar Khan: “I was born in Dubai but raised in New York City, Queens. Fired by my intellectual curiosity, college allowed me to explore the different fields of academics. While I was completing a major in Media Communications & Arts at City College of New York, it was crucial for me to link the world of politics to the humanities. Upon completing my Bachelors, I was accepted into the Union Semester Program and now I am completing my Masters in Labor Studies at the Murphy Institute.

Recently, I was awarded a scholarship to participate in the AFL-CIO’s Organizing Institute (OI) National Organizers Workshop in Washington DC.  In my Pakistani culture, women are only portrayed as daughters, sisters, wives, and then mothers. I do not mean to undermine the roles that women play in my society, but I want to have as many doors of opportunity opened for me as a man might have. I was determined to grow beyond the traditional roles that my culture laid out for me. I want to be a symbolic figure for all women. One step forward to my goal is the fight for every worker, their respect, dignity and justice.

Thandness PalmerThandness Palmer: “My main motivation for seeking a Master’s Degree in Labor Studies at the Murphy Institute is to improve my union local. I have been a member of Teamsters Local 804 since 2001. A large majority of Local 804 members are UPS employees. I am improving my understanding of labor at the Murphy Institute and making better decisions and arguments on behalf of my local at UPS. Studying at Murphy has also given me a vaster knowledge of labor in general. I now see labor as a significant issue not only here in the United States but across the globe.”

Paz PeterssonPaz Petersson:  “Throughout undergrad, I developed a growing interest in labor rights as the nexus of the things I cared most about: global society, equalizing opportunities, and ensuring that people have access to the tools and resources they need to lead the lives they desire. I recognized from my studies of international development that entrenched inequality is at the root of many social problems, and I wanted to pursue a career to change this for the better. During internships at the Carbon Disclosure Project and Global Goods Partners Inter-religious Understanding, and in my current position at Human Rights Watch, I have gained a plethora of professional experience in how to effect positive change. The Carbon Disclosure Project’s work tracking environmental impact along major corporations’ supply chains triggered my focus on the challenges of ensuring social responsibility in the transnational production process. This question, of workers’ rights and workers’ happiness (and the many challenges that come along with trying to measure either) is one that I hope to research further in graduate school.

In my courses at the Institute, I am excited and challenged by the fact that many of my peers are active members of the U.S. labor movement. I was also challenged by the classroom environment, as I am most accustomed to scholars eager to discuss the theoretical, but with little life experience of their own to share. I found my peers at the Murphy Institute came from quite varied backgrounds, were involved in a local labor movement in some form, and possessed hands-on knowledge about subjects I had as-yet understood only theoretically.”

 

Marline PierreMarline Pierre: “Finishing my Master’s Degree in Labor Studies from the Murphy Institute will equip me with the knowledge and tools to pursue a career in social action/labor law and bring hope and justice to those individuals in unjust situations. My education has always been centered on learning how to better serve populations in underrepresented areas. I attended CUNY Baruch College and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature. I was also a Search for Elevation Education and Knowledge (SEEK) student within CUNY Baruch College. Because I believe in equality and justice for all employees in the workplace, my desire is to become more knowledgeable about those unions that already exist in New York State, and to learn about labor law and the importance of it in the workplace. As an employee, I have been privy to unfair working conditions for some workers. Obtaining a graduate education from the Murphy Institute is giving me a clear vision of the advantages of labor laws for all working people.”

Jessica VanelJessica Vanel: “My parents are Haitian immigrants who migrated to the United States in the 1970’s.  My mother worked as a porter for a building in Manhattan and was a member of 32BJ for over 35 years.  I can vividly remember when I was twelve years old and my mother came home and told the family she would be on strike. It lasted over a month.  She had to march on those lines five days a week. As a young person in middle school, I conveyed strikes with picket lines, marches, posters, and banners. The result was swift and ended with the union winning fair labor rights.

I am older now and I don’t have a union at my job. In the past years, I felt uneasiness at work watching the abuse by supervisors/managers toward other employees.  It made me feel uncomfortable because no one was there to speak up for employees on issues ranging from not learning a computer program fast enough, asking too many questions, or not moving fast enough. The CEO asked why I didn’t complain about underperforming workers. My answer surprised her: I stated that the issues at hand were minor and we needed to be patient with those workers who weren’t computer savvy. The result from numerous conversations was to have those employees work under my supervision. As soon as that happened, I sent the employees out for more training.  Prior management approach had been to write up the individuals, give them demerits, or harass them.  I found that intervening for these workers reminded me of my past experiences as the daughter of union members. This prompted me to study the labor movement, how employees began organizing, and what our rights are as workers.”

2015 Diversity Scholarship Application Now Online, Extended Deadline April 30th

The Joseph S. Murphy Scholarship for Diversity in Labor seeks to make a significant contribution toward redressing existing imbalances in the labor movement and academic discipline of Labor Studies by providing financial support to students entering our Labor Studies programs: up to $30,000 for graduate students, and up to $20,000 for undergraduate students

The 2015 Diversity Scholarship Application is now online. We encourage interested applicants to apply by or before the March 31st April 30th deadline*. For more information about the scholarship, please contact our Diversity Scholarship Coordinator, Janet Leslie, at 212-642-2083 or janet.leslie@cuny.edu

*Deadline extended!

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.

eekelund

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A. Koren
United Federation of Teachers

Oshima

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!