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Prof. Kafui Attoh on Structural Racism in Mass-Transit Policing

The protests over the past week and a half have laid bare many of the excesses of the police and called into increasing question what their role in our cities is and should be. In a recent Streetsblog post, SLU professor Kafui Attoh explained why the protests have in particular laid bare the structural racism in New York’s mass-transit policing.

Attoh reminds us that, before the pandemic, before the recent wave of mass protests, Gov. Cuomo and the MTA had decided to add hundreds of new transit police to the city’s subway system in order to combat fare evasion. The news was announced much to the dismay of activists, who noted that this would simply exacerbate existing inequalities and racial profiling — and would cost the city a fortune.

Now, here we are six months later, and, Attoh observes, one would think the conversation would have changed:

Today, the issues facing the MTA and New York City Transit appear more existential. After Cuomo’s March 20 “New York on PAUSE” declaration, daily transit ridership fell by 90 percent. By mid-April ridership on the subway had reached a historic low of 365,000 daily trips — down from 5.56 million trips a year before. Losses in fare revenue have been extensive. 

The MTA’s financial situation remains shaky despite the fact that the agency has received federal and state aid and new powers to borrow from its capital budget — and especially given the possibility of another outbreak. Beyond the hit to transit budgets, the human costs also have mounted. As of this week, more than 60 transit workers in the city — most of them bus drivers — have succumbed to COVID-19. Transit in the city is facing a new reality — one that has made a mockery of the old bugaboo of “fare evasion.”

And yet, the MTA intends to move forward with its pre-COVID plan:

In mid-April, Gothamist reported that, despite $8 billion in COVID related losses, the MTA still plans to plow ahead with its decision to hire 350 new MTA police officers. Having already hired 150 since January, the MTA will expand the force’s ranks by 150 in July and by another 200 in December.

As Attoh explains, this dynamic makes abundantly apparent what is motivating policymakers — and what we need instead:

The push for more MTA police — despite transit’s financial woes and the retreat of the issue of fare evasion — clarifies what was already clear to activists six months ago: The purpose of the policing fetish is simply the need to control the mobility of the economically and racially marginalized  — a population that will face the brunt of the coming austerity.

We must address these structural questions — and now, with hope, we will.

Read the full post at Streetsblog.

Photo by Runs With Scissors via flickr (cc-by-nc-nd)

Joseph S. Murphy Scholarship for Diversity in Labor Virtual Celebration (6/10)

REGISTER HERE

Join us for The 8th annual Diversity in Labor Scholarship Awards Celebration! This year’s virtual event will take place tonight, June 10 from 5pm to 6pm. We will introduce our newest Diversity Scholarship recipients and recognize this year’s Rising Leader honorees. Our special guest speaker for the evening is New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

2020 Rising Leaders:

Jahmila Edwards, DC37

Candis Tolliver, 32BJ SEIU

For more information contact: Rose Imperato at rose[dot]imperato[at]slu.cuny.edu

Virtual Event: Fighting for CUNY/Rebuilding NYC (6/11)

Thursday, June 11 * 10 AM to 11:30 AM

PLEASE NOTE: The ZOOM link will be sent to registrants the day before the event.

REGISTER HERE

A Zoom forum on past, present and future efforts and struggles to save CUNY as a working-class institution that embodies the best of our city’s hopes and aspirations for equality and diversity in public higher education. Sponsored by the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies (SLU).

Featured Speakers:

Stephen Brier, Professor of Urban Education, CUNY Graduate Center and Professor of Labor Studies, SLU

Jamell Henderson, Coordinator, CUNY Rising Alliance and 4-time CUNY graduate

Justin Sánchez, Co-chair SLU Student Union and student in the B.A. Program in Urban and Community Studies

Andrea Ades Vásquez, First Vice President, Professional Staff Congress, CUNY

The panelists’ presentations, which will focus on ideas and examples of how CUNY can be saved from austerity and how NYC can be resurrected, will be followed by a Q&A session with the Zoom audience, moderated by Penny Lewis, Professor of Labor Studies, SLU.

New Labor Forum Highlights: June 2020

The New Labor Forum has a monthly newsletter on current topics in labor, curated by the some of the most insightful scholars and activists in the labor world today. Check out some highlights from the latest edition below.

In his introduction to  Policing the Planet:   Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter,  the poet Martin Espada writes: “I see the rebels marching, hands upraised before the riot squads, faces in bandannas against the tear gas, and I walk beside them unseen. I see the poets, who will write the songs of insurrection generations unborn will read or hear a century from now, words that make them wonder how we could have lived or died this way, how the descendants of slaves still fled and the descendants of slave-catchers still shot them, how we awoke every morning without the blood of the dead sweating from every pore.” Espada’s words hold special poignancy now, in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.

George Floyd died on a Minneapolis street, his neck pinioned beneath the knee of police officer Derek Chauvin. Like so many other police killings of people of color, the murder of George Floyd demands that we scrutinize the role of law enforcement unions in relation to racist and warrior-style policing. In the case of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, the union is standing by Officer Chauvin and his colleagues, who looked on for over eight minutes as Floyd pleaded “I can’t breathe.” Although Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey last year banned the warrior-style training that teaches the sort of chokehold that Officer Chauvin used to restrain Floyd, the Minneapolis Federation continues to champion the use of such potentially lethal maneuvers. The union leadership, in the person of union president Bob Kroll, has a long history of antagonism against advocates of reform and has called Black Lives Matter a “terrorist organization.” These facts force tough questions about the nature of police unionism. Four years ago, faculty and staff at the CUNY’s School of Labor and Urban Studies, publisher of  New Labor Forum, already understood the gravity of this matter and devoted a two-day conference to bringing Black Lives Matter activists into conversation with leaders and members of police unions. In this newsletter, we offer an interview with conference speaker Carmen Berkeley, then Director of the AFL-CIO’s Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Department. We also include reporting from  Mother Jones by Inae Ho on the Minneapolis union’s endorsement of conditions that ultimately led to George Floyd’s death.

Table of Contents
  1. Confronting the Tragedy: An Interview with Carmen Berkeley. Interview by Ed Ott of Carmen Berkeley, former AFL-CIO Director of the Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Department
  2. Minneapolis Banned Warrior-Style Police Training. Its Police Union Kept Offering It Anyway / Inae Oh, Mother Jones

Photo by Kelly Kline via flickr (cc-by-nc-nd)

SLU Virtual Graduate Celebration Honorees Announced

Four SLU students and alumni will be honored at our upcoming Virtual Graduation Celebration.
Urban Studies MA graduate KenDell Jackson has been selected as the student speaker for the event. A Labor Management Consultant at 1199SEIU Training & Employment Fund and a lifelong Bronx resident, Jackson’s Capstone project examined health disparities in his home borough. During his time at SLU, Jackson was the winner of a University Student Senate Peer Mentorship Scholarship, which recognized his work as a volunteer coach for the Velocity Track Club, where he coaches fifty young athletes including his daughters, Tiarra and Karly.
Two SLU alumni, Kristina Ramos-Callan and Bradley Kolb, will receive the SLU Distinguished Alumni Award. Ramos-Callan began her studies at SLU in the Healthcare Administration Certificate Program and completed a Master’s in Urban Studies as a proud member of the class of 2018. Ramos-Callan’s career in healthcare stretches back to her first job, at age 17, as a ward clerk at a neo-natal intensive care unit. Today, she serves as a Program Manager at United Hospital Fund, where she works to give voice to communities often left on the fringes. Recently, Ramos-Callan developed a collection of Covid-19 resources for pediatricians and families that has been distributed throughout the City and State.

Continue reading SLU Virtual Graduate Celebration Honorees Announced

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