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2022 Joseph S. Murphy Scholarship for Diversity in Labor

The Joseph S. Murphy Scholarship for Diversity in Labor program is designed to foster diverse leadership in the labor movement and in the academic discipline of labor studies. Students from underrepresented populations interested in seeking an M.A. in Labor Studies, or a B.A. in Urban and Community studies with a concentration in labor, are encouraged to apply.  Recipients of the award receive up to $30,000 for graduate study, or up to $20,000 for undergraduate study.

Meet our 2022 Recipients

Yadhira Alvarez

Yadhira Alvarez embodies the characteristics and qualities essential for building a strong and dynamic labor movement – from the bottom up! She has experienced first-hand the interconnection between a powerful labor movement and strong communities. Yadhira has made a profound impact on her union, as an organizer and Chief of Staff of the Laundry, Distribution and Food Service Joint Board, Workers United, SEIU.

Her union work has brought her to areas as diverse as homecare, industrial laundries, hospitals, warehouses, and the public sector. As a lead contract negotiator, she has fought to win significant increases in wages and benefits for members, as well as large sums for workers improperly fired after COVID-19 exposures.

At SLU, Yadhira, who will be entering the M.A. in Labor Studies program this coming fall, is interested in exploring new tools and strategies for organizing, to create a much stronger labor movement in New York!  She’s especially interested in discovering tools to combat divisions that employers create at work, based on class, race, ethnicity, or job classifications.


Camilla Chavarria Duarte

Camila Chavarria Duarte spent much of her time at New York University examining how society creates and uses concepts of the “other” to divide, control, and alienate people from themselves and one another, starting from our earliest years and continuing into our lives as working and social adults.

Camila attended NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study with a concentration in Critical Theory and Visual Culture. While at NYU, Camila was selected for the Americas Scholars Program, an honors program that brings together high-achieving students interested in matters related to the Americas.

At SLU, Camila, who will be pursuing her M.A. in Labor Studies, hopes to develop a “thorough understanding of how labor operates in the United States today, how it is shaped and how workers come to exist only as their labor, and not as full beings.”


Rashaun Donovan

Rashaun Donovan is a Credible Messenger on a mission to help realize changes in his community, South Jamaica, Queens. He has completed the CUNY SLU Community Leadership Certificate program, where he learned about community organizing, coalition building, and how to build a 501c3 non-profit organization. Now, with this opportunity to continue toward his B.A. in Urban and Community Studies, Rashaun looks forward to digging deeper into the issues he cares about. He especially wants to see more programs that help the formerly incarcerated return successfully to their communities.

Futher, Rashaun looks forward to doing research on the impact of gun violence on perpetrators and victims. He feels strongly that an education at SLU, combined with his real-world experience in the field, will help him realize a goal: creating and building a Cure Violence Site that would promote public safety and community health in the neighborhood where he grew up.


Hannah Faris

Hannah Faris comes from a rural Wisconsin union family and was deeply influenced by witnessing the state’s attacks on public-sector unions. She is dedicated to using the skills she has developed in the area of media arts and journalism to further investigate and confront the formidable challenges faced by labor and immigrant communities.

Hannah excelled as an undergraduate at Columbia College, Chicago. After graduation, Hannah became deeply involved in community organizing with the Council on American-Islamic Relations. She assisted low-income and predominantly Arab and South Asian immigrant communities on issues such as employment, housing, and mutual aid resources during COVID-19.

At CUNY SLU, as she pursues of her M.A. in Labor Studies, Hannah is excited to expand her knowledge and writing on labor, and is particularly interested in examining the ways that workers are building power and community in non-traditional workplaces and industries, such as agriculture and the gig economy, as well as in right to work states.


Infinite George

Infinite has worked 21 years in construction, 14 as a member of Laborers Local 79, the largest LIUNA local in North America. Prior to joining Local 79, he worked non-union jobs, unsure of what to do about workplace problems he encountered.  “I was a scab laborer being exploited and working in unsafe conditions. Once I got into the union, I learned, I took the organizing and construction education classes offered, and I vowed to help others in that position. I’m a regular at rallies, meetings, and I work to convince fellow members of the importance of participation in the union – and how the lack of participation directly affects their livelihood.”

Infinite plans to continue his work as a union Shop Steward, especially helping workers who are easily taken advantage of and are willing to perform cheap labor in order to survive or stay out of jail. He is confident that the B.A. degree he is pursuing at CUNY SLU, with classes in labor, organizing, and collective bargaining, will strengthen his “tools” as he continues his mission of helping workers, and building the union he is so proud of.


Herby Phanord

After obtaining an Associate’s Degree in Fine Arts, Herby decided to put his academic pursuits on hold to dedicate his time and energy to raising a family. More than a decade later, he has reached a point in his life where all of the focus and attention that he put into parenting is finally starting to pay off. He found himself thinking more passionately about returning to school and finally earning his Bachelor’s degree.

Herby Phanord is, as he describes, “a city government employee, a laborer, and the son of immigrants,” who didn’t think he had what it took to be awarded a Joseph S. Murphy Scholarship for Diversity in Labor. He is now part of our 9th cohort of Diversity Scholarship awardees, and will use this award to complete his BA in Urban and Community Studies at CUNY SLU.


Lisa Pinkard-Adams

Lisa Pinkard-Adams has never been shy about volunteering to solve problems she sees. When she noticed that a well-known local politician didn’t have any signs up in her community, she just called him up and jumped in to help!  He appreciated her talents, and soon offered her a job as his Central Islip campaign manager.  Lisa has found great satisfaction through the political process of connecting with members of her community, especially people who have been historically underrepresented and didn’t believe they had the power to effect change.

Lisa’s varied background has prepared her to be the effective leader she is today, representing union members for the Professional Employees Federation (PEF). At Fordham University, she majored in Legal Studies, and earned a Masters in Social Work, concentrating in Policy, Leadership and Not-for-Profit Management.

Lisa, who will in fall 2022 begin SLU’s M.A. in Labor Studies program, firmly believes that building “people” is the biggest part of building “community,” and she is forever committed to educating all those she encounters on the importance of education, civic engagement and the possibilities of collaborative change.

Marie Francois Finds Her Voice at SLU

It took a while—and support from her DC37 union educational benefits—but Marie Lodescar Francois is ready to raise her voice … and perhaps a few roofs.

“I believe in lifelong learning. And DC37 offers lifelong learning and professional development, free of charge,” said Marie. “Education can be life-changing. DC37 knows that.”

A native of Haiti, Marie moved to the U.S. in 1983. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from City College of New York, Marie took a job with NYC Transit. “They had a special program called Transit Corps of Engineers,” Marie said.  They selected newly graduated college students with at least a B GPA. I guess Transit was looking for a new generation of high potential employees—“digital natives”—to bring new ideas to the organization.” Marie currently works in the Car Equipment Division involving New Technology Trains, which are all systematically controlled by software. Continue reading Marie Francois Finds Her Voice at SLU

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

Behind the Camera with Tsering Lama: Documenting Domestic Workers’ Fight for Rights

Tsering Lama knows something about story-telling. Perhaps that’s because she herself has quite a story to tell.

Tsering is a Tibetan refugee, born and raised in Nepal.  She came to the U.S. in 2008 hoping to work in health care, and studied psychology while supporting herself as a domestic worker. “Basically, I’ve been working and going to school non-stop ever since I got here. I didn’t have any ideas about organizing at first. That came about because of my own experiences as a domestic worker, and what I witnessed about other workers’ situations. I’ve always cared about social justice, and organizing seemed like the next logical step. I joined Adhikaar as staff in 2016 and through my work, along with workshops like the Cornell ILR program, I was able to learn more about the labor movement.”

Adhikaar (a Nepalese word meaning “rights”) is a non-profit located in Queens that seeks to improve the lives of the Nepali-speaking community and make their voices heard, and to promote human rights and social justice for all. The organization has been influential in supporting legislation at the local, state, national and international levels to protect the rights of domestic workers, including the New York State Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and the International Domestic Workers’ Convention. “Historically, domestic workers have been excluded from unions,” Tsering said. “Even with the Fair Labor Standards Act, many are excluded.  So it will take legislation as well as organizing to change things. Continue reading Behind the Camera with Tsering Lama: Documenting Domestic Workers’ Fight for Rights

Haley Shaffer Builds a Career in the Labor Movement (with a little help from the SLU network)

Haley Shaffer has been fighting for workers’ rights—including her own—for quite a while.  But she says she’s just getting started.

Haley moved from the Milwaukee area to New York City in 2014 for an internship at a non-profit organization, StoryCorps, and later took a staff position. “My coworkers and I were dealing with a toxic work environment—we were expected to give everything for little remuneration—so we started to organize in 2016,” Haley said. “And I found myself on the organizing committee.” After a challenging campaign, the staff union went public in 2017 under CWA 1180.

“That was my first experience with the labor movement,” Haley said. “I stayed at StoryCorps through 2018, through an NLRB hearing and several months on the bargaining committee, but after such a tough campaign I was ready to move on.”

After working at another non-profit with similar issues, Haley wanted to do something else. “I saw two of the staff organizers from CWA 1180 at a StoryCorps picket, and they told me I should think about coming back to the labor movement. One of those organizers, Leslie Fine, is a Union Semester graduate and she suggested I look at SLU’s programs. I was interested in developing my organizing skills, and I was really interested in making it my full-time job to work in the labor movement. So I enrolled in the Union Semester program in 2019. I got placed with United for Respect, which works on organizing employees at big corporations like Amazon and Target and WalMart. It was a great experience. Then David Unger suggested I go into 32BJ’s training program, and I did that for a semester, organizing residential building employees like porters and doormen.”

Continue reading Haley Shaffer Builds a Career in the Labor Movement (with a little help from the SLU network)

Community Semester Story: Sephora Wembo … in Her Own Words

My name is Sephora Wembo and I am a senior at CUNY’s Hunter College majoring in Sociology and minoring in Women and Gender Studies, graduating this December. In the fall of 2019, I got nominated by my professor to take part in the Community Leadership Program at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies. When I heard about this amazing opportunity, I was excited to take part because I wanted to broaden my experience and skills and further my education in order to become a social worker.

The Community Semester program was an intensive academic and service-learning experience. It gave me the opportunity to not only learn academically but also outside the classroom with an internship. When I began this program, I kept on hearing the words “community organizing” and I had no idea what that meant. I now know that community organizing means empowering people in underrepresented communities to fight for issues that affect them. In class we not only learned about the subjects academically, but also got to experience them firsthand. For example, I attended one campaign in the city called “Housing Justice for All.” It was really empowering to see a lot of organizations come together to work for change in their communities.

Continue reading Community Semester Story: Sephora Wembo … in Her Own Words