Labor Day Speaker Event Discusses Importance of Labor Unions

The Stuyvesant Young Democrats hosted a Labor Day speaker event featuring speakers NYC Central Labor Council member Alex Gleason, Communications Workers of America Union activist Pamela Galpern, and Assistant Editor of Labor Notes Dan DiMaggio.

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The Stuyvesant Young Democrats hosted a speaker event about labor unions in the library on Tuesday, May 1. NYC Central Labor Council member Alex Gleason, Communications Workers of America Union activist Pamela Galpern, and Assistant Editor of Labor Notes Dan DiMaggio spoke about labor unions and their experience working in them. Principal Eric Contreras, Assistant Principal of Social Studies Jennifer Suri, and at least 40 students attended the event.

Gleason started the lecture by explaining what labor rights are. “Labor rights include the right to collective bargaining,” Gleason said. Workers also get to voice their opinions by getting together and protesting with petitions and strikes. Labor rights are protected by labor unions, which are organizations of many workers with the common goal of growing the market share of workers.

DiMaggio then talked about the importance of joining labor unions, which strive to improve workers’ wages and worki conditions and to give workers financial security. Senior Stuyvesant Young Democrats Vice President Mohammad Sarker agreed with DiMaggio’s message. “Labor unions are the foundation of the prosperity Americans faced after the Second World War and there is a direct correlation between the decrease in union density in workplaces and the rise of income inequality and the stagnation of the real middle wage for the last 30 years,” Sarker said.

Many in the audience gave positive feedback on the event. “This lecture was informative because the speakers talked about how labor unions have helped workers recently,” freshman Maya Martinez said. “It’s important to join labor unions [...] because the development of new technology can influence employers to fire many workers to cut expenses with machines.”

Others also expressed a newfound interest in attending speaker events on similar matters. “Although my friends and I attended this lecture for extra credit, we are interested in attending more lectures about social science,” freshman Tori Lieberman said. “However, we hope that future lectures are announced earlier than this one because I learned about the Labor Day speaker event from my teacher the day before it took place.”

Sarker and senior Stuyvesant Young Democrats President Kevin Boodram, who spearheaded the event’s planning, are glad that the Labor Day speaker event was a success. “It took us about a month to organize the event, mainly because I was paranoid about slipping up on any possible details,” Sarker said.

Sarker decided to organize the lecture after receiving inspiration from a town hall forum on labor unions that he and Boodram attended with U.S. representative of New York Joseph Crowley. After meeting with the NYC Central Labor Council, Sarker was able to arrange for a representative to come to Stuyvesant High School. Sarker then reached out to another organization, Labor Notes, under recommendation of social studies teacher Ellen Schweitzer.

The Stuyvesant Young Democrats has more labor union-focused events on its plate. The club is currently planning to attend the Count Me In protests for better working conditions in the Hudson Yards development. “We are eager [for] Stuyvesant students to lend [their] voices to the important cause. [...] While many of us have been going to the protests individually, in June we’ll be going as a club,” Boodram said.