Photos: 2017 Murphy Graduation

On May 19th, JSMI hosted our Spring 2017 Graduation Party. A big congratulations to our graduating class of 2017 — and gratitude to all the staff who planned and worked this event.

Current Labor Studies MA student Carmelina Cartei organized a performance to kick off the event, along with performers Elaine Betesh, Naomi Calhoun, Katherine De La Cruz, Susan Epstein,
Anabel Lugones and Sarah Venezia —  and with our own Irene Garcia-Mathes supporting and Rose Imperato on saxophone as well! Photos from the performance and the rest of the graduation celebration are below.

Our thanks as well to our wonderful MC Stacey Payton, who is a Diversity Scholarship recipient and graduated with an MA in Labor Studies. Check out the text from Stacey’s speech, posted in full below the photos.

Remarks from Stacey Payton:

Good Evening Director Greg Mantsios of the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies, distinguished faculty, staff, family, friends, and most importantly to the Murphy Institute’s graduating class of 2017. I’m Stacey Payton and it is with immense honor that I have been invited to be your Mistress of Ceremony tonight.

As a mature adult, going back to school was a decision that made me apprehensive. I was so worried about being in class with younger students and was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the work and assignments. Being a student first at the Cornell Labor Institute, where I obtained my certificate in Labor Studies, and then as a master’s student at the Murphy Institute, helped me to understand that education is a state of mind, and as long as you’re willing to put in the work, the results will be successful. Having said that, I realized, before tonight, I knew one thing was for certain. I didn’t do this alone. I had help — lots and lots of help. I had the support of my family, friends, colleagues, and even my superiors. The people in my life pushed me to be the best that I could be with encouragement and insistence. And it all started because someone saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. Before I became a master’s student at the Murphy Institute, or an executive officer as the recording secretary for a third term in my local union, I was and still am an employee of the NYS Homes and Community Renewal Office of Rent Administration, as well as a proud rank and file member of DC37 local 1359.

Before I became the 2015 Joseph S. Murphy Diversity scholarship recipient, I was an employee who went to work every day, did my job, — very well I might add — and concentrated on raising my daughters. My oldest who is with us today, Leneya, just graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh last Saturday, and I am so proud of her. Like many employees, I did not think about what my union could or was doing for me on a daily basis. I did not give prudence to those members who were sacrificing their personal time and effort to make sure I had job security, worked in a safe environment and could use my health insurance at my leisure.

Then one day a colleague of mine invited me to attend a union meeting. At this point, I had been a member for nearly 15 years and had never thought to make the time to even attend a meeting. They say everything happens in its own time — and for me, that was the beginning of something brand new. I became keenly interested in what my union was about and what the union leaders were doing and slowly I began to learn.

Being an active participant in my union has given me a bird’s eye view into the importance of union activism and a clear understanding that our work has just begun. As recording secretary, it is not just my job to record the minutes of meetings. I am also responsible to disseminating important information to our members and answering questions about things that matter most. It is a second full-time job that I cherish, and I’m grateful that the members allow me to continue to do faithfully. Had it not been for my colleague encouraging me to attend one meeting, I possibly would have never gotten involved with the day to day activities of my union, and I am appreciative for that opportunity. I realized, though: what I needed to learn couldn’t be taught at general membership meetings. I began to crave a better understanding of why unions exist, and how they work.

So here I am. At the Murphy Institute, I have gained knowledge about the history of unions, perspectives about unions, issues in organizing, labor and immigration, labor and politics, and those wonderful capstones, just to name a few. Because of my courses in labor law and contract negotiations, I was able to effectively participate in my local’s current collective bargaining sessions. These things would not have occurred had it not been for someone taking the time to tap me on the shoulder and invite me to a union meeting, and had it not been for that pivotal moment that I decided to get involve with my union, I wouldn’t be standing here in front of you today living this magnificent dream.

Each of you have earned the seat you will be sitting at graduation. Through hard work, a lot of sleepless nights, you have arrived. When you sit in your very well deserved seats and you think about how hard you worked to earn your place among the many graduates in your company. I want you think about the person that tapped you on the shoulder and pointed you in the direction of your future. It doesn’t matter whether you are young or mature — because old is a frame of mind; you are here. Once the dust has settled and you’ve hung up your degree, and you’ve begun to move forward into your new adventures, take a moment and tap someone on the shoulder and invite them to a union meeting or an open house at Murphy, and offer them a road to success — because I’m so grateful to the person that did that for me.

Thank you to the Murphy Institute for believing in me, to my parents and family — both at home and work — for your tireless support. And congratulations once again to the graduates of the Joseph S. Murphy Institute class 2017. Job well done!