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Orientation Week at Union Semester

Photo features Union Semester Spring 2016 students

January 25 saw the arrival of a new crop of Union Semester students to the Murphy Institute. Students spent the next four days diving into the labor movement, learning about and from each other, and interviewing with potential organizations.

Some highlights include:

Social Justice Milestones

Students were asked to do a short presentation on an important moment that brought them to seek social justice as a passion and/or career.

The Panels

The Working in the Movement panelists talked about their current jobs at unions, plus how they got there. Our panel: Organizer Mary Clinton (Union Semester 2011) from CWA District 1 , Communications staff Rachel Van Raan-Welch (Union Semester 2012) from CIR SEIU, and Ed Yoo, the director of the NYSNA Research Department.

Panel on Working in the Movement, with Mary Clinton (alumni, now at CWA; Rachel Van Raan-Welch, alumni now at CIR SEIU; Ed Yoo, at NYSNA)
Mary, Rachel, Ed

Some tremendous Union Semester alumni came to speak about their semesters! We welcomed Brittany Anderson (Spring ’14) of Retail Action Project, Ryan Richardson (Fall ’07) with Cian, future member of Union Semester class of 2036 (pictured directly below). Hanalei Ramos (Spring ’15) of the Responsible Endowment Coalition and Liam Lynch (Fall ’13) with NYCOSH are pictured below. Thank you to Sam Valente (Fall ’14) for moderating!

Alumni Panel

Alumni Panel

Workshops

Eduardo Gonzalez Jr. from the Cornell University Extension led a terrific anti-oppression training.

Students participated in a simulation  organizing campaign, involving “house calls” with various Murphy staff people.

"House calls" during a practice organizing drive
“House calls” during a practice organizing drive

"House calls" during a practice organizing drive

Professor Josh Bienstock took students through a presentation and discussion of collective bargaining, its pitfalls and potentials.

Professor Josh Bienstock in a Collective Bargaining workshop.

Interviews with Host Organizations

Thursday evening, students made signs to take to a rally supporting workers at a restaurant downtown.

Preparing for protest

Headed to a protest downtown

 

 

Welcoming a New Class of Union Semester Students!

Welcome our spring 2016 NY Union Semester class!

Andrew Brockwell

20160108_142039Born and raised on Long Island, Andrew is a recently graduate of SUNY Old Westbury with a degree in Labor Relations. Ambitious and intelligent, he is joining the Union Semester program to gain insight and experience in working for a union and learn how, as institutions, unions can change public policy.

 

 

Claire Edwards

claireClaire Edwards is a fourth generation settler on Treaty 6 (Cree) territory in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She’s taking a year away from her studies at the University of Alberta in Political Science and Women and Gender Studies to intern in the US. This fall, she spent the semester at NARAL Pro-Choice America in Washington, DC where she interned in the development department. There, she saw the connection between the fight for reproductive rights and the fight for workers rights, and decided to apply for Union Semester to become a more effective organizer. Claire is excited to learn about the current state of the labor movement in the US and apply that knowledge to her work in Canada. 

Alexia Filpo

filpo photoAn undergraduate at CUNY Hunter College majoring in Political Science, minoring in Environmental Studies, Alexia’s goals include getting the Certificate in Labor Studies offered at the Murphy Institute, finishing her BA and obtaining a union job within the public sector, preferably as a sanitation worker, or working anywhere and creating a union! She is a member of the CUNY Internationalist Clubs at Hunter College and wants to work with a union that is aware of its own history and that knows its power, one that wants youth and all sectors of the working class to join in its struggle; a union that wants to tear-up FRIEDRICHS V. CALIFORNIA, among other laws that repress workers; a union that knows the plight of its black and immigrant brothers and sisters, and one that connect the struggles internationally.

Jonah Furman

IMG_0593Jonah was born in Chicago and raised in Evanston, IL. He went to college in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins, and studied philosophy and literature. He then moved to Boston and was in a touring band for four years, which traveled the US and Europe. He then moved to New York and interned at the Street Vendor Project, a workers center for NYC street vendors. He’s interested in radical approaches to work and wages (basic income, work refusal) and the histories of those approaches.

Isaac High

isaachighRaised in Maine, Isaac High is interested primarily in labor history and political economy, which he studies at Sarah Lawrence College (along with a few other things). Labor, union history, and challenges facing working people have been long standing interests of his. Through Union Semester, he hopes to expand his focus on this history and apply a general understanding to more specific and pressing issues. He would love to always be working with organized labor in some capacity.

Drew Picklyk

picklyk

Drew graduated from Concordia University in Montréal with a B.F.A in Film and History. A Toronto native, he has spent the last 5 years studying/working and then living/working in Québec. He’s greatly interested in analyzing the current state of labor as it functions in one of the the world’s economic capitals. Through this, he hopes to raise his awareness of of wage / wealth inequality and apply any learned remedies to his future pursuits in life. He is excited to be living in a new country and hopes his outside perspective will expose him to variety of issues he hadn’t previously been aware of.

Valeria Pinzon-Mendez

valeriaOriginally from the big and beautiful city of Bogota, Colombia, Valeria moved to Glastonbury, CT when she was 14 years old. She is now a sophomore at the University of Vermont majoring in Community and International Development. She was motivated to join CUNY Union Semester to have an opportunity to learn more about worker’s rights and struggles. She hopes to be an effective advocate for workers and most of all immigrant workers.

Afsana Rahman

afsanaAfsana is a junior at Hunter College majoring in Sociology. She was born and raised in New York City. Her parents are from Bangladesh and she has two siblings. Her interests are social inequality, race, intersectionality, and gender studies. At New York Union Semester she would like to learn more about the history of the Labor Movement in the United States and would also like to learn different ways to support worker’s rights. She hopes to gain a better understanding of how labor organizations function and how they support millions of workers throughout the world and especially in New York City.

Amanda Trainor

amandatrainorAfter completing her B.A. in International Relations and Spanish, Amanda Trainor has spent the last few years in Brooklyn advocating for adults diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. She recently trained as a birth doula to support families and she is passionate about crafting as a form of activism. New to labor organizing, Amanda feels motivated to learn first-hand how the labor movement can promote leadership for women and minorities and ultimately strengthen communities. She is excited to roll up her sleeves and become a more well-rounded activist by getting involved in the new experiences that Union Semester will offer.

Murphy Alumni: Organize, Organize, Organize!

Murphy alumni have been gaining some press as of late.

New York Taxi Workers Alliance staffer and Union Semester alum Ryan Richardson joined cab drivers Bill Lindauer, Victor Salazar, and Asim Akhtar as they heckled Uber CEO Travis Kalanick on the set of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert (via NY Daily News.) Meanwhile, another Union Semester alum, Liam Lynch, was featured on KUT.org for NYCOSH‘s work seeking out 9/11 responders and survivors in Texas and beyond.

Here’s to our vibrant and active alumni community!

Introducing Fall 2015 NY Union Semester Students

The Fall semester is upon us, and we’re gearing up to welcome yet another Union Semester cohort! Introducing the Fall 2015 class….

For information on joining the class of Spring 2016, find us at www.unionsemester.org.

 

siddika
Siddika Degia
Originally from India, Siddika has lived in New York City since the age of seven. She is a junior at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY. She is studying politics, labor studies, and social justice issues. She is attending the NY Union Semester to gain experience and a better understanding about the labor movement.

Siddika is interning at the Transport Workers Union Local 100 in the Education department.

erica

Erica Dodt
Erica Dodt was born and raised in the Midwest. She created her own undergraduate major in social justice, focusing on pedagogy, law, and gender at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. She is a movement educator and organizer who is interested in the Union Semester to hone her skills at synthesizing research, analysis, reflection, and community self-determination.

Erica is interning at the Writers Guild of America East, in the organizing department.

casey

Casey Garrison
My name is Casey Garrison and I am a junior anthropology major at Hendrix College. I was born in Southern California and grew up in a small town just south of Little Rock, Arkansas. My interests include educational anthropology, issues in urban poverty, and social justice. I am attending Union Semester in order to broaden my experiences with applied anthropology and further my understanding of labor unions and the fight for social justice in New York.

Casey is interning at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 3.

robin

Robin Beck
After growing up in Syracuse and Rochester, Robin Beck has lived in Ohio, Newark, and NYC. He has years of experience working in food service and retail, and has been active in the labor and Palestine solidarity movements.

Robin in interning with the Transport Workers Union Local 100 in the Political Action department.

budlong

Marisa Budlong
Marisa is from the East Bay Area, but spent the last four years in the Greater Boston studying Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Sociology at Brandeis University. At Brandeis, she restarted the Brandeis Labor Coalition and was part of a group of feminist activists who created Brandeis Students Against Sexual Violence. Marisa wants to engage in carving out spaces for growth and empowerment within hierarchical systems, especially concerning the livelihood and agency of womyn. She is hopeful that Union Semester will allow her to continue this work and nuance her understanding of how the labor movement intersects in people’s lives.

Marisa is interning with the United Federation of Teachers in the Political Action department.

emilyallenEmily Allen
I was born and raised in upstate New York and Pennsylvania. I moved to New York City when I was 17 and have lived and worked in the city for the past 8 years. I have a Bachelors Degree in Philosophy and Political Science and plan to attend law school next year.

Emily in interning at the Laborer’s International Union of North America, Local 79 in the Research department.

pranavPranav Pendurthi
Pranav graduated from NYU in 2014 with a major in Philosophy.  He is interested in the history of the labor movement, and exploring how it can be used as a structural means by which to counteract inequity.

Pranav is interning at the New York State Nurses Association with the Community Affairs department.

antioco

Alexandra Antioco
Alexandra is a Brooklyn Native, with a B.A in Political Science. She has a passion for social justice and joined Union Semester to get a better understanding of Labor Unions and workers rights as well as to become a better organizer.
Alexandra is interning at the Service Employees International Union Local 1199 Training and Upgrading Fund.
amin
Mohammad Amin
Mohammad is an immigrant from Bangladesh. He graduated from UCLA with a B.Sc in Math/Econ in 2015. He wants to become a union researcher. He also has deep passion for worker rights in third world countries.

 

Mohammad is interning with 32BJ, Service Employees International Union in the Contracts and Grievances Center.

Union Semester Students Explore New York City

By Michael Murphy

As part of the Union Semester program at the Murphy Institute, students are enrolled in a course titled “Work, Culture, and Politics in New York City.” The course readings are designed to complement trips to museums, archives, guided tours, and industrial sites such as the Brooklyn Navy Yard, allowing students to take advantage of the wealth of resources offered by the city. Recently, the class visited two outdoor parks that have changed the way New Yorkers think about the potential uses of public space, the built environment, and the waterfront.

First, the class traveled to the High Line in Chelsea to explore the intersection of industry, nature, and economic development. This former elevated railway was transformed into a public park by the nonprofit Friends of the High Line, which generated financial support from private donors and the city. It runs along Tenth Avenue until a sharp turn at West 30th Street allows visitors to meander closer to the Hudson River. During our visit, students were asked to take a photo that connects this unique urban space with the themes of the course. Continue reading Union Semester Students Explore New York City

Fall 2014 NY Union Semester Students

Holiday decorations have taken over nearby Bryant Park, the mornings are getting chillier, midterms have come and gone, our mid-semester internship check-ups are complete, and New York Union Semester will be winding down in just a few weeks.

Before they move on to other exciting endeavors, meet our students! They each bring something unique to the cohort and their internships. Zach has co-authored a report on low-wage work and Walmart, Erin is running steward’s training, Adam is an expert on an innovative teacher’s union project, Tehmiena is helping Bronx healthcare workers go back to school, Michael is helping  call-center workers go into contract negotiations, and more!

For information on joining the class of spring 2015, find us at www.unionsemester.org.

StalnakerErin Stalnaker,  AZ
Transport Workers’ Union, Local 100
Erin Stalnaker began doing labor solidarity work in Mexico and on the US/Mexico border in 1998. She has been active in indigenous and immigrant rights struggles, been both a rank and file activist and a staffer in several unions and worked as a Co-op Development Specialist in financial and worker cooperatives in the US and Canada. In her Union Semester placement with the Transport Workers’ Union, she is working with the Director of Education to design and teach educational programs for Shop Stewards.

*Erin is also a Murphy Diversity Scholarship winner and MA student in the Labor Studies department

SanchezFrancis Sanchez, City College, New York, NY
New York State Nurses Association
Having gone to the City College of New York for all of my undergraduate studies and receiving my bachelor’s degrees in Latino Studies and International Studies, I needed to find something to gear all my learning towards. I found the Union Semester and thought it would be a meaningful experience. Now as a Union Semester graduate student I have been given an amazing opportunity to intern with the New York State Nurses Association and work on my master’s degree. Working with NYSNA’s Political and Community Organizing department I am able to see firsthand how important it is to get members involved both in their union and in their communities. I have participated in several NYSNA events, such as their Biennial, where I helped organize their booths; I was also given the opportunity to help bring together a “Safe Staffing” campaign rally, which has been one of NYSNA’s top political and civic priorities. I have always had a passion for activism, starting with my roots at El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice, where it was instilled in me that I have a voice, and it is a valid and important one. It is my responsibility to others as well as myself to mold a community that I can be proud of. The Union Semester is helping me do just that.


Caroline, Chicago, IL
Legal Services Staff Association, United AutoWorkers Local 2320
My name is Caroline and I’m from Chicago. I’m interning for the Legal Services Staff Association. I do a variety of administrative assistant work, and I’m currently compiling an oral history of the members of the union. I decided to do Union Semester because my school didn’t offer any sort of labor studies, and I wanted to meet more people my age who are interested in labor issues as much as I am.

HaviarasCleopatra Haviaras, Queens College, New York, NY
Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign
Cleopatra Haviaras is a senior at Queens College. She is majoring in History, with a double concentration in Ancient History and European History. She is minoring in Business & Liberal Arts Honors, Byzantine & Modern Greek Studies, Honors in the Humanities, and Classics. Cleopatra is fluent in English, Greek, and Spanish. Her passion for bettering people’s lives and giving them an equal opportunity to succeed is what motivated her to apply to the New York Union Semester Program. She is interning with the Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign, under the mentorship of Mark Hannay, the Campaign Director. Prior to her internship, Cleopatra did not know much about the healthcare system or healthcare campaigns; however, as her internship unfolds, she has come to learn about the logistics behind the Metro Campaign, and has met many representatives and members from unions such as 1199SEIU, UFT, and DC 1707. Given her long-term interests in Public Policy, Cleopatra aspires to delve into labor-specific work that aims to improve civic engagement across NYC. Upon receiving her Certificate in Labor Studies, Cleopatra will pursue her Master’s Degree in Public Policy, hopefully, at the CUNY School of Professional Studies in the fall of 2015.

eekelund

Emily Ekelund, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada
I am a settler born and raised on Anishnaabe territory (toronto, canada) and moved to Mohawk territory (montreal) where I have been studying critical-race feminisms at concordia university. I am currently a visitor on traditional Lenape land here in NYC. So far in the program I have been most challenged by the deeply ingrained capitalist idea that we need to take on more commitments than we can handle, always producing and doing more. My strengths don’t really emerge when I’m encouraged to function this way. I am feeling the most excited about my involvement with New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), where I have an excellent mentor and the opportunity to learn while contributing to their advocacy and organizing.

chad rosenbloom

Chad Rosenbloom, Bard College, Pittsburgh, PA
I graduated from Bard College in spring 2014, and am a current participant in the Murphy Institute’s Union Semester program. Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I have maintained an interest in radical politics and the study of history from an early age. In high school I formed the “Noam Chomsky Society,” a student club dedicated to discussing Chomsky’s eloquent critiques of American foreign policy and the pivotal role of propaganda in social control. I was an active member/organizer for the Bard College chapter of the International Solidarity Movement during my time there, and was also able to intern with the progressive media watchdog group “Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting” as part of the Bard Globalization and International Affairs program. The most challenging aspect of Union Semester thus far has been learning to reconcile some of my political sentiments with the established traditions of the labor movement. However, I feel strongly that if one wishes to have some kind of career in building worker power and fighting for social justice, such conflicts in ideology are one of the most valuable things the program can inspire.

Zac Smith at #Flood Wall Street
Zachary Smith
Walmart Free NYC
In my first job out of college I worked at a union job in education, which made a difference concerning my wage, benefits and terms of employment. I eventually moved on to various roles in the non-profit sector, but realized after several years that my heart was in the labor movement. Union Semester was the right step for me, and since August I’ve interned at Walmart-Free NYC, a labor-backed coalition working to keep Walmart out of the five boroughs. My work has ranged from corporate research to working with allies to create a unified front against the largest corporation in the world.

IMG_1540
Melissa Best
Professional Staff Congress-AFT Local 2334
I am a Union Semester Graduate student from Queens, New York. Applying to the Union Semester program is one of the best things that I’ve done. Coming from a union family, I applied to Union Semester to help me understand unions better and how they function. Now that I am a legislature intern at the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY, I am learning more than I anticipated, and with the added classes you are able to take what you learned in class and apply it to your internship.

Tehmiena Lughmani
1199 Service Employees International Union Training and Upgrading Fund
I studied Political Science at Brooklyn College, and following a long period of underemployment, came to realize the importance of understanding my worth as a worker. Currently, I’m an intern at the 1199 Training & Upgrading Fund. My work revolves around providing support in the effort to prepare adult learners for degrees related to healthcare.

Union Semestersval
Samantha Valente
Communications Workers of America Local 1180
Samantha Valente is a Fall 2014 Union Semester student and a recent graduate from Hampshire College, where she studied women’s labor history. She joined the program to gain more knowledge and experience in the labor movement before continuing her education in labor history. She is interning with the Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 1180 under the Mobilization Coordinator. Some of the most exciting work has been helping mobilize union members for the People’s Climate March, various labor rallies, and city elections.

mccown
Michael McCown
Communications Workers of America Local 1102
I was born and raised in Austin, TX, and graduated from the University of Chicago in June. I’m currently in the Union Semester program and I am working for CWA Local 1102 doing internal and new organizing. I got interested in unionism and Union Semester while doing healthcare-equity activism in Chicago, with local organizations trying to bring a trauma center to the South Side of Chicago. 

Alexi and Paloma
Alexi Shalom
Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union

Gillian marching with the PSC-CUNY
Gillian Rothchild
New York State Paid Leave Coalition
A newcomer to the world of labor rights, Gillian Rothchild left her career as a veterinary technician after ten years in that field.  She realized that issues that kept arising with her managers regarding her pay, scheduling and benefits were problems being faced by millions of other workers across the country.  The Union Semester program seemed like the best way for Gillian to gain the education and experience necessary for her to figure out how she wanted to proceed and where she fit into the worker’s rights movement.  Now halfway through the semester long program, Gillian is learning tons of new material every day, both from her internship and from her classwork.  She is extremely grateful for the support of her amazing internmates, her husband, and her cats.

akc
A. Koren
United Federation of Teachers

Oshima

Alice Oshima, Middlebury College, New York, NY
Writers Guild of America East
My name is Alice Oshima and I am a senior in college. During my sophomore year at Middlebury College, I took Sociology of Labor and Labor Studies, and this course sparked my academic interest in the labor movement. This class, along with my dad being in a union, and my interest in fighting for economic justice and equity led me to the Murphy Institute’s Union Semester. This fall, I am interning with the Writers Guild of America East (WGAE). As part of the WGAE’s organizing drive in non-fiction (or “reality”) television, I have done strategic research — specifically regarding production companies’ show histories, workers in collective bargaining unit positions, and workers’ contact info. I have also done phone-banking, been trained in one-on-one organizing conversations, and just did my first one-on-one with a worker!