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Observations From a Trip to China: Part I

Photo: Professor Lu Zhang speaks about labor conditions inside Chinese auto factories.

By Stephanie Luce

I recently returned from two weeks in China, where I participated in a scholar exchange sponsored by the American Sociology Association, Labor and Labor Movements section. The exchange was the third piece of an ongoing effort to increase communication and collaboration between Chinese and US scholars. There were 8 sociologists in our delegation, along with Katie Quan, the coordinator of the program.

We spent time in Beijing at a conference on labor relations, then meeting with union officials and organizers from worker centers. I then spent a week in Hong Kong meeting with more labor activists, as well as people involved in the Umbrella movement. I’ll report on what I learned about the labor movement here, and in a second post I will write about the Umbrella movement. Continue reading Observations From a Trip to China: Part I

A Survey of Community and Labor Perspectives in the Wake of the Eric Garner Case

By Donald LaHuffman 

Produced for “Labor and Media Studies” with Prof. Ari Paul, Fall 2014

The United States recently exploded in protest around the country as citizens mobilized to show displeasure at the Staten Island Jury findings. The jurors decided not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner. Pantaleo had allegedly held Garner in an illegal choke hold until his death, despite Garner’s pleas of not being able to breathe during the encounter. Ensuing local and national demonstrations connected Garner’s death to the earlier police shooting of Michael Brown who was killed in Ferguson, Missouri. Community organizers have included mothers in New York City who have lost their sons to alleged police brutality in previous years in these actions. In my graduate Labor Studies class “Labor and Media” taught by Ari Paul during the fall 2014 semester, my classmates and I met five mothers who told their stories. These mothers told the stories to make sure that they were not forgotten. Continue reading A Survey of Community and Labor Perspectives in the Wake of the Eric Garner Case

What does it mean for public education, CUNY, and the city when top immigrant and minority students can’t get into our best schools?  

Editor’s Note (4.13.15): The original article from the Atlantic has been significantly revised due to framing and factual errors regarding acceptance and enrollment trends. You can read the latest response from Jay Hershenson, Senior Vice Chancellor for University Relations and Secretary of the Board of Trustees at CUNY, here.

In “When Being a Valedictorian Isn’t Enough,” LynNell Hancock and Meredith Kolodner explore the ramifications of the raising of admission standards at the top-five CUNY colleges – Baruch, Hunter, Brooklyn, Queens, and City.  CUNY’s top schools increasingly admit a disproportionate number of white and Asian freshmen, while admitting fewer students from New York City’s high schools.  This drive to increase the prestige of the top-five schools has left New York’s black and Latino high school students crowding into two-year community colleges with much lower chances of ever successful completing a Bachelor’s degree.  Hancock and Kolodner examine the impact on the changes on New York City’s students, high schools, and on the community at large.  Who is getting left behind by a system that less-and-less reflects the demographic make-up of New York’s public schools…and is there a way out?

You can find a response to this article from CUNY here.

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


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.


Prof. Abramovitz’s Human Services Research Gains Press

Prof. Mimi Abramovitz, who teaches at Hunter’s Silberman School of Social Work and here at Murphy, has been working on a study along with co-coordinator Jennifer Zelnick that looks at human service workplace and practice trends.

Recently, this work has been picking up press: in November, New York Nonprofit Press wrote about the human service workforce study, while two recent podcasts from the University of Buffalo’s School of Social Work discuss the effects of privatization on human services. (See Part 1 and Part 2.) Finally, in September, WVOX 1460AM ran an interview of Prof. Abramovitz conducted by Allison Sesso, Executive Director of Human Services Council of New York City, on Human Service News and Views.