Rebuilding Labor's Power for the 21st Century


Friday, May 5, 2023  *  9:30am - 5:00pm E.T.


Join us *in-person* at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies,

18th floor (map) in Midtown Manhattan or *virtually* via Zoom!


Join us for a day-long discussion of exciting new developments in the labor movement, from recent union organizing efforts, to building power through bargaining and strikes, and to political campaigns outside the workplace that expand workers’ power.


Hosted by the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies.


Click here to register.

Don't forget to register for the conference kickoff on Thursday, May 4:

Thursday, May 4 - 6:30 pm

HYBRID: In-person at CUNY Graduate Center and Live-streamed


Register here for the conference's opening program at the CUNY Graduate Center:



Keith Bullard, organizer, Union of Southern Service Workers; 

Mark Meinster, director of organization, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) 

Sara Nelson, international president, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO 

Anthony Rosario, organizer, Teamsters Local 804 - Amazon and UPS campaigns

Moderated by Sarah Hughes, organizer, trainer, and writer at Labor Notes; former coordinator, Union Semester at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies.




Join us for a day-long discussion of exciting new developments in the labor movement. We begin the day with an exploration of recent organizing efforts and strategies to establish or expand unions in a variety of settings, including some of the largest global employers as well as sectors where organizing is spreading rapidly.  

Winning union representation is only one step towards building worker power. Beyond winning elections, workers must be able to bargain a contract and potentially engage in successful strikes. As an alternative to elections, gains can be achieved through workplace direct action. Our second panel addresses workers’ efforts to build power through bargaining, contracts and strikes. 

The third panel features presentations on how workers are building political power outside the workplace itself, through legislative campaigns, policy work, and electoral programs.  

The conference also features a keynote address during the lunch hour by Jennifer Abruzzo, General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, who will offer her reflections on this important moment in worker organizing.  




9:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

Welcome and Conference Introduction


10:00 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.

Session I:  "Expanding the Labor Movement:  New Organizing”

Chair:  Ruth Milkman - CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies


Eric Blanc (Rutgers University):

“Do-It-Yourself Unionism: Its Rise, Tensions, and Lessons”


Larry Engelstein (formerly SEIU 32BJ):

“The 32BJ Experience: Organizing Low-Wage Service Workers, Raising Wages and Expanding Benefits

— the Role of Market Strategies and Institutional Power and Resources”


Kavitha Iyengar (United Auto Workers):

“Revolutionizing Higher Education Organizing: How New Organizing and Striking Changed an Industry”


Tamara L. Lee (Rutgers University) and Maite Tapia (Michigan State University):

“Worker Organizing in Response to Racialized Employment Practices at Amazon”



11:45 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.   

Luncheon Keynote:  Jennifer Abruzzo

(General Counsel, National Labor Relations Board)


Chair:  Ellen Dichner - CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies



1:00 – 2:45 p.m.

Session II: “Building Workplace Power:  Bargaining, Contracts and Strikes”

Chair:  Stephanie Luce - CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies


Yadhira Alvarez (Workers United, SEIU):

"Winning at the Bargaining Table: Lessons for New Organizing"


Carlos Aramayo (UNITE HERE Local 26):

“When We Strike, We Win? Reimagining the Strike for the Twenty-First Century”


Sarita Gupta (Ford Foundation):

“Organizing for a Better Democracy through New Models of Collective Bargaining”


Bob Master (formerly Communication Workers of America - District One):

"Rethinking the Strike:  Labor's Most Powerful Weapon"


Ben Wilkins (Union of Southern Service Workers):

“Whatever It Takes: Building the Union of Southern Service Workers”



2:45 – 3:15 p.m.

Coffee Break



3:15 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Session III:   “Building Labor’s Political Power”

Chair:  Samir Sonti (CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies)


Jeremy Blasi and Aaron Greenberg (UNITE HERE Local 11):

“Organizing L.A.:  Power and Politics in Los Angeles's Tourism Sector and Beyond”


Veena Dubal (University of California College of Law, S.F.):

“Organizing Against Data Extraction at Work:  Lessons from the On-Demand Economy"


Puya Gerami (Yale University / SEIU 1199 New England):

“Building Strategic Alignment at the State Level:  A Case Study from Connecticut”


Nikil Saval (Pennsylvania State Senate):

"Organizing and Elections: Reflections on the Inside-Outside Strategy"




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