Category Archives: Labor Studies

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Labor Studies

Labor Studies offers graduate degree and certificate programs that examine the opportunities and challenges facing workers and their organizations. The program builds critical thinking, analytical, and leadership skills so that students become more effective advocates for workers’ rights and social justice. Learn more here.

Mourning 32BJ SEIU President Héctor Figueroa

It is with great sadness that we note the untimely passing on Thursday, July 11th of Héctor Figueroa, President of 32BJ SEIU and long-time member of the Murphy Institute and SLU Advisory Boards.

Héctor was a great labor leader and political powerhouse. His belief in the right of workers to determine their own destiny and to enjoy the benefits of unionization led him to wage numerous successful campaigns that brought better pay, benefits, and working conditions to thousands of women and men. He was a progressive leader with a broad vision of labor and its role in the larger struggle for social justice. He was a champion of racial, social, and economic equality. His work in defense of immigrants’ rights was outstanding, as were his efforts to expand voting rights. Continue reading Mourning 32BJ SEIU President Héctor Figueroa

New Labor Forum Highlights: June 10th, 2019

The New Labor Forum has a bi-weekly 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 the current issue of New Labor Forum , columnist Sarah Jaffe covers a very bright spot in the contemporary labor movement: the impressive union organizing taking place at digital media outlets around the country. Beginning in 2010 with Truthout, the first digital newsroom to organize, then since 2015, a wave of unionization has taken place at outlets that include: Gawker, The Onion, The Dodo, Gizmodo Media Group, HuffPost, Mic.com, Thrillist, Mic, Jacobin, Fast Company, The Onion, BuzzFeed, Vox Media, Slate, Salon, the Intercept, MTV News, and the fashion site Refinery29.

Campaigns with the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) and NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America (CWA) have been led largely by millenials and, as Steven Greenhouse reports in an article in NiemanLab included here, have focused on raising abysmal starting wages, improving benefits packages, and protecting workers from the precarity that characterizes the industry. And according to TeenVogue columnist Kim Kelly − who figures in Jaffe’s and Greenhouse’s reporting and spoke at a CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies forum – collective bargaining at these media outlets has also begun to make strides toward improving workplace culture and bringing about “the world we think we want.” New digital media union members continue to experiment with their own feisty and innovative organizing to secure labor contracts. For instance, just last Thursday at Vox Media, approximately 300 workers stayed out of work to pressure the company to settle a contract that’s been in negotiation since April of last year. The dearth of fresh content to post left the company high and dry for the day and seems likely to spur a settlement.

Table of Contents
  1. The Labor Movement Comes to Virtual Reality: Unionizing Digital Media/ Sarah Jaffe,New Labor Forum
  2. Why are digital newsrooms unionizing now?/ Steven Greenhouse, Nieman Lab
  3. The Next Generation: Young Workers Building Movements/ The Murphy Institute, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies

Photo by lizsmith via flickr (cc-by-nc-nd)

Union Semester Student Bailey Miller Wins Labor Journalism Contest

Each year, the Metro New York Labor Journalism Council gives out awards for student labor journalism. And this year, the winner for written article was SLU student Bailey Miller, who wrote about “body shops,” labor-leasing companies that exploit formerly incarcerated workers, and which are proliferating on construction sites throughout New York City. Her article is reproduced below. Congratulations, Bailey!

The Rise of Labor-Leasing Companies and the Exploitation of Formerly Incarcerated Workers in New York City

By Bailey Miller

Construction in New York City is booming, but beneath the glitter and shine of new buildings, a troubling trend has emerged. An expanding class of labor-leasing companies, known as “body shops”, is providing general contractors with workforces of formerly incarcerated people for exploitive construction sites across the five boroughs. Body shops pay barely minimum wage, offer no benefits like medical coverage, and provide minimal safety training for workers to erect scaffolds, clear debris, and perform other types of work on the cheap. The rise of body shops means that formerly incarcerated workers, who are disproportionately Black, are increasingly exploited to perform the dangerous work of erecting New York City’s luxury towers and shopping complexes.   Continue reading Union Semester Student Bailey Miller Wins Labor Journalism Contest

New Labor Forum: April 1st, 2019

The New Labor Forum has a bi-weekly 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.

The early successes of the #MeToo movement caught many commentators by surprise. However, despite its notable achievements – including dramatic increases in awareness regarding sexual harassment, as well as the conviction of a long list of high profile offenders – the institutional changes required to prevent sexual harassment and assault are still a long way off. A recent national online survey highlights this fact, finding that 81 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime. This figure is higher than previously cited data because it includes the plethora of verbal forms of sexual harassment, as well as physical harassment, cyber harassment and sexual assault. The survey also indicates that girls and young women experience alarmingly high rates of harassment, with the highest incidence occurring between the ages of 14 and 17.
Establishing and enshrining changes in the workplace, where sexual harassment so often occurs, should be a first order priority for organized labor. Yet, as Ana Avendaño writes in her article for New labor Forum , “with some notable exceptions, the labor movement has been a bystander, or even complicit, especially in male-dominated industries where harassment is most pervasive.” Avendaño examines labor’s troubled legacy, including some unions’ efforts to weaken the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and steer claims of racial and gender discrimination away from the courts. She also describes the effective work by a handful of unions to make their industries more equitable and safe for women workers, and suggests how this work provides a model for organized labor to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and in its own union halls.
The #MeToo movement has also forced unions and other social justice organizations to reckon with their own internal cultures that enable, and sometimes breed, racial and gender discrimination. A recent case in point is the Southern Poverty Law Center, long admired by progressives for its work in tracking and prosecuting hate groups. We include here a New York Times article that discusses the accusations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment in that organization that have now forced the departure of its top leadership. What next? Reversing decades of weakening labor law and shoring up the fragile prosecutorial footing provided by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act seem like two necessary, albeit uphill, battles that must be waged to stop ubiquitous workplace sexual harassment.
Table of Contents
  1. #MeToo Inside the Labor Movement/Ana Avendaño, New Labor Forum
  2. A New Survey Finds 81 Percent of Women Have Experienced Sexual Harassment/ Rhitu Chatterjee, NPR
  3. Roiled by Staff Uproar, Civil Rights Group Looks at Intolerance Within/ Audra D.S. Burch, Alan Blinder and John Eligon, New York Times
  4. The Rape of Recy Taylor Film Screening/ Co-sponsored by the Women’s Organizing Network

Photo by GGAADD via flickr (cc-by-sa)

CUNY Days at DC37: Worker Education at the Murphy Institute’s New College Access Initiative

By Becky Firesheets

When adults are interested in returning to school, they’re often faced with multiple challenges — jobs, children, bills, aging parents — yet are expected to navigate this process alone. In contrast, high school students, who typically experience fewer barriers than adult learners, receive built-in guidance from trained counselors present in their schools. Worker Education at the Murphy Institute strives to change this reality by bringing college access services directly to adults within their communities.

Recently launched with DC37, Worker Education’s new initiative “CUNY Days” offers free, thirty-minute, one-on-one sessions with experienced pre-admission advisors held at the union’s headquarters. Our advisors begin each session by discussing participants’ career goals and recommending various academic pathways at the School of Labor and Urban Studies and/or greater CUNY that could lead toward achieving this goal. Depending on the individual’s needs, sessions might also include application assistance, exploration of various industries and local labor market data, guidance on accessing union tuition benefits and financial aid, and more. Continue reading CUNY Days at DC37: Worker Education at the Murphy Institute’s New College Access Initiative

Labor Rights and College Education

This post was originally published at The Diamondback. Reposted with permission.

By Olivia Delaplaine

Top on the long list of worries for most graduating students is the prospect of finding a job. Each day a hiring manager doesn’t email us back or a website removes a job listing — and the looming anxiety of paying back exorbitant student loans draws closer — our desperation grows. Soon, we abandon pipe dreams of a livable salary with health insurance and paid leave, and begin to search for any work we can find.

We enter interviews insecure, self-conscious and vulnerable. We might take the first offer that comes our way, because we don’t know any better. We feel like it’s a privilege to even be offered a job; so who are we to ask for a higher salary, fixed hours or better health insurance? It’s not like we had the chance to negotiate as a part-time student employee, teaching assistant or intern. We may have even tolerated daily harassment or intimidation while doing our jobs, unable to do anything about it. Why should we expect that to change?

So instead of convincing us that we should dress up and put on a show for companies and organizations that won’t even pay us a living wage, our institutions of higher education should have a central role in preparing students for the workplace. Just as they’re active in teaching us marketable skills, they should be teaching us about how to negotiate fair pay and benefits.

Continue reading Labor Rights and College Education

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