A Message From Our Director

With Labor Day behind us and the 2017-18 academic year ahead, I want to take this opportunity to extend a warm welcome to the entire Murphy Institute community and to share some of this past year’s achievements and some future prospects.

Our accomplishments this year have been notable. In June, the CUNY Board of Trustees approved a resolution that will elevate the Murphy Institute to a new CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies. The Board’s decision was a milestone not only for the Institute but for the labor movement and the broader community. The establishment of the new School will mean more resources; a wider array of programs; more academic support for our students; additions to our already distinguished faculty; and added luster to the undergraduate and graduate degrees we will award.

The effort to establish this School has been a four-year initiative, spearheaded by labor leaders on Murphy’s Advisory Board. These efforts gained wide support from the State Legislature (which, in April, re-allocated $1.5 million toward the School) and the City Council (which, in June, allocated nearly $1 million). Our student ambassadors, faculty, and staff also played key roles. A great deal of work lies ahead as we make the transition from Institute to School. We are deeply grateful to the CUNY Board of Trustees and the Chancellor for establishing the new School of Labor and Urban Studies.

June 2017 marked another very important achievement: 154 Murphy Institute students marched onto the stage at Lincoln Center during this year’s SPS graduation to receive their Labor Studies and Urban Studies degrees and certificates. This was an extremely proud moment for all of us.

At our Diversity Scholarship Awards ceremony, a few weeks earlier, we introduced six new scholarship recipients for the 2107-18 academic year and honored two “Rising Leaders.” This year’s event marked another milestone. Thanks to a matching grant from the University and the generous contributions of donors, Murphy reached its goal of raising $1 million for scholarships dedicated to the pursuit of diversity and excellence in union leadership and labor scholarship. A host of dignitaries attended the award ceremony. Scholarship winners received proclamations from the Governor and the City Council. The program, listing scholarship recipients, “Rising Leaders,” and speakers, is here.

Our students are the beneficiaries of financial support from a number of sources, including unions, the Diversity Scholarship program, and City Council funding. In addition this year, Murphy received a $50,000 contribution from an anonymous donor to provide emergency funds for students who face unanticipated circumstances—job loss, threat of eviction, unexpected medical or childcare expenses, and more.

Our distinguished faculty of scholars and expert practitioners make an extraordinary contribution to scholarship in the fields of Labor and Urban studies. Collectively, our 11 full-time and consortial faculty have published over 70 books. Their publications and public-speaking engagements this year are too numerous to mention. I do, however, want to draw attention to Murphy’s annual report on union density, authored by Professors Ruth Milkman and Stephanie Luce.

This was also a stellar year for Murphy’s Center for Labor, Community, and Policy Studies. The Center held over 15 major events, including 10 public forums and several multi-day conferences. Well over 1,000 people attended these events. Topics included the Trump election; immigration; law enforcement and communities of color; the debt crisis in Puerto Rico; worker cooperatives; youth activism; technology and advocacy; higher education; and the long-term impact of the Bernie Sanders campaign. Speakers included academics, elected officials and community leaders, journalists, clergy, student activists, film makers and playwrights, international union presidents, and even the former President of Brazil.

This year, Murphy’s New Labor Forum: A Journal of Ideas, Analysis and Debate reached a national and international subscription base of over 7,200 individuals, unions, and libraries. The journal published a number of important articles this year, including “A Listening Tour with Labor’s Trump Voters,” by Gordon Lafer; and the “Future of Urban Populism,” by Phil Thompson. It continued its many popular features, including “Under the Radar” (unreported and under-reported news); “On the Contrary” (debates); “Working-Class Voices”; “Books and the Arts”; “Organized Money – What is Corporate America Thinking?” Click here to learn about the journal’s student essay contest. To subscribe to the journal, click here.

The work of the Center includes research and policy development, especially through its International Program for Labor, Climate, and the Environment, which has drawn attention from the media, labor leaders, and environmentalists from around the globe. The Center also offers free immigration counseling services and consultation as well as two civic engagement and leadership programs, which enroll scores of participants interested in running for office or otherwise engaging in electoral politics.

Looking ahead, the Murphy community can anticipate an exciting year. A new Community Semester internship program—parallel to the Union Semester program—has just been launched, as have new undergraduate and graduate certificates in Community Leadership. Murphy will be hiring a new Program Manager to oversee these and all other Urban Studies programs. We will also establish a research awards program and a rotating Distinguished Lecturer position. Funding from the City Council will allow us to expand our CUNY-wide worker education and workforce development initiatives significantly. The issue of New Labor Forum currently in the mail features articles on trade, infrastructure, climate change, and labor law—all examined in the specific context of the Trump administration. There is some very interesting public programming coming up on such topics as the future of public sector unions after the Supreme Court’s JANUS decision; a 50-year retrospective on New York’s Taylor Law; the NYC Transit Crisis; and voting and partisan gerrymandering.

On a note of labor solidarity, we invite everyone to kick off the new academic year by joining the Murphy Institute contingent at the Labor Day parade on Saturday, Sept. 9. It’s great fun and a wonderful way to get to know the Murphy community.

Murphy is the sum of its parts: students, faculty, staff; our partners in the University; our supporters in government; and our Advisory Board. We thank all those who participate in our activities and support our work. In these very troubling times, we remain committed to making a productive contribution to social change.

Sincerely and with best wishes for the coming academic year,

Greg Mantsios, PhD

Director, Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies