Kenneth Margolies

people / faculty

Kenneth Margolies

Senior Associate
Labor and Unions


Ken Margolies started working for the ILR Extension Division at Cornell Labor Programs in 1986 following a career in the labor movement working for the Service Employees Union, the Association of Flight Attendants and the Communications Workers of America. In the mid-1990's he took a leave from Cornell to work for the Teamsters union.

Training for Unions

Ken Margolies uses his labor union experience to train and advise union members, officers, staff, delegates and stewards. He has organized conferences, and taught credit classes as well as non-credit workshops on a wide variety of union related topics. He coordinates a union skills workshop series for union leaders and staff in New York City and is part of the faculty for Cornell ILR's Union Leadership Institute. He has developed manuals and other training material for unions including a video on collective bargaining and a video and webinar series on grievance handling.

Group Facilitation, Strategic Planning, Inclusion and Building Unity

Ken Margolies has facilitated decision-making, planning, and unity building meetings for executive boards and other groups within unions. He helped develop lesson plans on diversity for use by unions and has worked with the NY State AFL-CIO and Central Labor Councils on immigrants' rights. He developed and co-taught workshops on uniting divided unions.

Local 1199SEIU Leadership Development Campaign

From 2003 until 2006 Ken Margolies served as Co-Director of the Local 1199SEIU New York Leadership Development Campaign (LDC) along with another Cornell Extension Faculty member, Jessica Govea Thorbourne, now deceased. The LDC, a ground-breaking program, trained hundreds of Delegates, Organizers and Officers to meet the challenges of a growing dynamic union in the health care and human services industries.

Supervising and Managing with Labor's Values

Along with colleagues at Cornell ILR Ken Margolies designed a four day workshop for union leaders and staff on how to supervise and manage effectively while maintaining the values for which unions stand. He and others have taught the workshop numerous times as a public offering and customized programs for specific unions. He has performed and published research on the topic of unions as employers and union officials as managers.

ILR Student Services

Ken Margolies serves as a link between the ILR Extension Labor Programs and resident degree students on the Ithaca campus. He has spoken at career forums and provided individual counseling to students interested in working in the labor movement. He coordinates the Summer Fellows program in New York City for ILR students who work on research projects with ILR Extension Faculty. He also conducts workplace tours in New York City for ILR students as part of the Winter Intersession Program (WISP) and participates in planning ILR's annual Union Days programming.

Work History

Service Employees International Union, Local 715, San Jose, CA . After graduation from Cornell, Ken Margolies worked as a union representative for a growing and dynamic public employee local of SEIU in San Jose, California from 1972 until 1978. While he was a field representative and senior field representative at Local 715 SEIU, the union negotiated ground-breaking contracts, took militant actions over staffing and other issues and grew dramatically through organizing new units.

Association of Flight Attendants, Washington, D.C. Ken Margolies worked for a brief stint from 1978 to 1979 as a National Bargaining Representative and Research Associate at the Association of Flight Attendants negotiating contracts under the Railway Labor Act.

Communications Workers of America, Washington, D.C. From 1980 until 1986, Ken Margolies worked for the Organizing Department of the Communications Workers of America. Working out of the CWA headquarters in Washington DC , he helped set up the first national organizing department in CWA history. During over 6 years at CWA, he supervised and worked on private and public sector organizing campaigns in many parts of the US including the historic elections that brought 32,000 New Jersey State Workers into CWA in 1981. When he left CWA to work at Cornell in 1986 Margolies was the CWA National Director of Organizing.

Teamsters, Washington, D.C. Ken Margolies left Cornell on a leave of absence to work in the Education Department of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in Washington D.C. in 1993 and worked nearly 4 years during the Ron Carey administration. As Associate Director and then Education Director, Ken helped produce training videos and other materials, conducted training academies and worked closely with the Teamsters Organizing Department. He was closely involved in designing education programs for Teamsters Local Unions in trusteeship for corruption to increase democracy and member involvement.

Education and Personal History

Ken Margolies grew up in Queens NY and attended NYC public schools. In 1968 while working for Emery Air Freight, Ken first joined Teamsters Local 295 in New York. He graduated from the Cornell ILR School with a BS in Labor and Industrial Relations in 1971. He earned a MS in Labor Studies from the University of the District of Columbia in 1986 by attending night classes while working for CWA. He was awarded a Masters of Professional Studies degree from Cornell ILR in 2011.


Journal Articles

    Selected Works

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    Professional Activities

    • Youth and Unions. Presented to Cornell ILR Extension. NYC. 2010.
    • Youth and Unions. Presented to Cornell ILR/CUNY Murphy Center. NYC. 2009.
    • Working in the labor movement. Presented to ILR Alumni Association. Ithaca. 2009.
    • “Supervising Union Staff with Labor’s Values: A Presentation of Curriculum and Instructional Outcomes.” . Presented to United Association of Labor Educators. Silver Spring MD. 2009.