All posts by Aaron Lenchner

Miriam Uribe Martinez Is Going the Distance

Miriam Uribe Martinez has already come a long way. And she has no intention of stopping now.

Born in Mexico, Miriam’s parents brought her to the U.S. when she was seven. She grew up in California, undocumented, like her parents. “My parents worked in factories, in people’s homes, places where they couldn’t complain about unpaid overtime or unsafe working conditions,” Miriam said. They got exploited time and time again. They wanted me to go to college, but my undocumented status and lack of funds made that very difficult.”

“Then lucky for me, just when I finished high school the California DREAM Act passed. I applied for DACA and was able to get grant money from the state to apply to college. I got accepted by the University of San Francisco but the scholarship wasn’t enough to cover my expenses—they hadn’t accounted for room and board, just tuition. I was just about to drop out because, being undocumented, I couldn’t apply for federal aid and USF didn’t provide much financial support for undocumented students. First I got upset and then I got angry, because California was providing undocumented students with the opportunity for higher education, but the university wasn’t providing them with the necessary support. So in my freshman year I wrote an op-ed for the student newspaper, ‘Undocumented and Unafraid.’ Fortunately, I got a tremendous amount of support from faculty and friends at USF, who literally helped me survive. I spent the next four years organizing on behalf of students like me and I learned that there are protections out there but most undocumented people are unaware of them. But change comes awfully slowly and in my senior year I wrote another op-ed, ‘Still Undocumented, Still Unafraid, Still Need Housing Funds’ to try to hold USF accountable.”

Continue reading Miriam Uribe Martinez Is Going the Distance

Raising Cain (and Baby) with Jimmy Bosco

Jimmy Bosco is from the working class and he is damn proud of it.

“I always want to be a member of the working class,” he said. “That’s who I am.

I’m rank and file, and I like working and being with the rank and file. I don’t feel like I necessarily need to be a leader of a union or something like that. I can do that right on the floor. I like that I can bring my anarchist/libertarian/socialist views to work and share them with my fellow workers. I can tell them that the problem in our country isn’t Democratic or Republican politics—it’s our capitalist society. I give them reading suggestions and websites. During the pandemic, I read about Cuomo’s policies on nursing homes and told my co-workers that there would be trouble, and when it all came down the pike a year later, they were impressed.”

“I’m working in a restaurant right now, and I’ve been doing some agitating there. I’m not afraid of talking to workers in front of the owner. One hostess worked 40 hours one week and 36 the next but she didn’t get overtime for the 6 hours over 70.  The owner told her she had to work more than 80 hours to get overtime. That’s illegal in New York State. I told her to use the group chat to ask if anyone else was having issues with overtime. They all started chatting together about asking for overtime, getting promoted to waitress. They all wanted to help each other get what is their due. So I got them to ask for a raise collectively. When the restaurant reopened for dine-in, I told them that was the most leverage they would ever have. So they all signed a letter and went right up to the owner and gave it to him. And they got a dollar per hour raise.”

Continue reading Raising Cain (and Baby) with Jimmy Bosco

Yasmina Moore Goes For It!

Yasmina Moore is doing it for herself. But she’ll be helping a lot of other people in the process.

A candidate for the Master’s degree in Urban Studies, Yasmina says she enrolled at SLU “because I wanted to learn something. I love my job and I’m successful at it but I felt like my learning process had plateaued.” She laughed and added, “I was all gung-ho at first but then I suddenly remembered that I’m over 40, I have a full-time job and I’m a mom. So I had second thoughts. But finally I decided to just go for it.”

Continue reading Yasmina Moore Goes For It!

CWOP releases “A Union Toolkit for Cooperative Solutions”

A Union Toolkit for Cooperative Solutions 11/2/21

As many readers of this blog know, as COVID-19 took hold in New York City, I was tapped to join the Labor and Workforce Development Sector Advisory Council convened by the City tasked to communicate broadly the day-to-day emergency management of the pandemic and its impacts on working people. This Advisory Council also expressed interest in developing strategies towards economic equity and wealth-building. We understood, it was not only a health crisis, but a racial awakening and a clear exposure of economic inequality. With this in mind, cooperatives and worker-ownership were raised as a strategy with the potential to transform aspects of New York City’s economy.

Our Council was made up of leaders from organized labor, workforce development organizations, nonprofits, and academic institutions.  CWOP took the energy of the moment and with the sign-on of eighteen participants of this Council established the year-long the Cooperatives Solutions Working Group. CWOP had previously convened several groupings of labor and workforce professionals. Working with the NYC Network of Worker Cooperatives and Union Co-ops Council of the US Federation of Worker Coops, we facilitated workshops and presentations on unions and co-ops. In February of 2020, in partnership with the Consortium for Worker Education, we hosted a visit with representatives from Mondragon, Spain, to discuss with labor and workforce development leaders how cooperative ecosystem building could help our local economy. Hearing how this strategy was applied in the Basque Region over 50 years ago and how Mondragon coops work today, interest was piqued. But this was only days before our city’s shut down.

The Cooperative Solutions Working Group met monthly, providing an open space for learning, discussion, and rich dialogue. Over the year, we built a dynamic environment for those interested in NYC’s equitable economic recovery to discuss themes of worker power, worker ownership, and collaboration for a just economy. We drew a wide assembly of labor leaders, organizers, cooperative developers, cooperative members, labor lawyers, City officials, and more to share their stories honestly, bringing forward lived experiences and challenges faced. [see Figure 1]. More than 200 people attended the (twelve) monthly meetings, with over 60 being regular attendees. Many sessions were reported on in this Blog.

​​Figure 1. Cooperative Solutions Working Group Participant Characteristics



“The Cooperative Solutions Working Group was exactly what I needed ~ thoughtful, connected and soul-nourishing conversation. I am grateful to Rebecca for having the vision to not stop the work after the Mayor’s Advisory Council, and instead, put this opportunity in front of us in this open and expansive way. I am also grateful for all the folks who join the sessions. I believe we are creating pathways to a more equitable, just and collaborative tomorrow and beyond.” 

  • Adria Powell, President and CEO of Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA), the largest union co-op in the nation, operating from the South Bronx, NYC.

As this phase of the working group came to a close in the summer of 2021, we committed to share key lessons on ways labor unions are interacting with cooperative businesses to expand worker power through ownership and democratic governance. As we listened, we saw that there are consistent ways and means that unions were collaborating with economic changes and the development of cooperative economies. This paper documents some of the lessons learned through case studies we heard in our Working Group, and offers a toolkit for those interested in broadening strategies for owning and controlling places of work. Our theory of change is to share  stories from others and then replicate what works, what can be done elsewhere and to welcome an attitude of “more of that!” In this way we aim to expand the power and influence of the union movement towards the cooperative ecosystem of our next economy.

Tools we identify are:

  1. openness to innovative organizing
  2. investment of union staff and professional expertise
  3. use of union spaces
  4. training funds and educational expertise
  5. capital access and relationships with financial institutions.
  6. negotiation process and a collective bargaining agreement
  7. sectoral analysis and legislative organizing

Our case studies feature:

  • Cooperative Home Care Associates / 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East
  • Lobster 207 / IAM District 4
  • New Era Windows / UE Local 1110 / The Working World
  • People’s Choice Communications Cooperative
  • Homeland / UFCW Local 1000
  • LVN Cooperative / AlliedUP Cooperative / SEIU United Healthcare Workers West
  • Coop Cincy / Coop Dayton and multiple unions in their ecosystem


Read the full report here:

A Union Toolkit for Cooperative Solutions 11/2/21

Building Bridges with Cassy Klewicki

Cassandra Klewicki builds things. Train platforms. Bridges. And international labor organizations.

Cassy is a concrete carpenter with Local 290, and how she got there was quite a journey. “I’ve worked all over, in six states and 24 countries.” she said. “I worked at a coffee farm in Ecuador. I took seasonal jobs where you live in camps, and afterward I would just travel until I ran out of money. I did a lot of work in state and national parks, doing things like putting up and taking down barriers. That’s where I learned to use hand tools. I worked on hiking and ATV trails, I did some natural resource management—planting bushes and such—as well as doing environmental presentations for kids.”

What is she doing now? “When I moved back to New York I got into the union, with the help of a friend,” she said. “I’ve been with Local 290 for almost five years. It’s great because the carpenters’ union covers both the U.S. and Canada, so I can work in many different places and still pay into the same pension and benefits system. Most recently, especially since COVID, I’ve been working on-site at transportation venues like the LIRR.”

Continue reading Building Bridges with Cassy Klewicki

Building Blocks for a Career in Public Service … Eriam Lopez’s Story

“I love architecture. That’s why I work in construction. I want to marry my love for architecture and my career in public service with advocacy. That’s why I am at SLU.”

Eriam Lopez works for the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development. She is also a mom with a 6-year-old and a 13-year-old that she is home-schooling. And she’s a lifelong learner with degrees from SUNY Farmingdale and CUNY’s John Jay College, and now she’s a candidate for the M.A. in Labor Studies from SLU. Oh … and she’s also a representative to SLU’s Student Union and Academic Governing Council, and graduate representative to the University Student Senate.

How does she manage to wear so many hats? “It’s been hectic,” she admitted, “The pandemic actually kind of simplified my life because I’m at home most of the time, and so is my partner. I don’t have to commute from Queens to my office or school and only travel to my construction sites as needed. I just jump on and off Zoom meetings most days,” Eriam laughed. Continue reading Building Blocks for a Career in Public Service … Eriam Lopez’s Story