Lawrence Goun

Summer 2014

Year: ILR '15

Cornell Activities/Groups/Affiliations/Leadership Roles:

  • Kesher, COLA, former President of Cornell Union for Disability Awareness (CUDA), Cornell Elderly Partnership

Project: Worker's Justice Project

Describe your research project. In addition to helping Legna and Maria with their strategic into health and safety in the poultry industry, I am working most of the week at Brandworkers; a nonprofit group in Long Island City that helps low wage food manufacturing workers in New York City. Specifically, I been providing technical support to workers in artisan bread production factories in Queens to help them come together and advocate for better wages and working conditions.

What have you gotten out of the experience so far? I have learned that getting workers to together can be extremely difficult. No two workers have the same experiences at work or outside of work but in order for them to create any change at the workplace, they have to engage in collective activity. Workers may be scared to speak out or may not understand how their direct and consistent participation and leadership can actually make a difference when trying to improve their jobs. Labor organizing is difficult because there are so many strategies that are needed to achieve an end result and campaigns can go on indefinitely.

Why might other students be interested in pursuing this opportunity? I think that students interested in law or in labor rights and history would find many of the opportunities at the Worker Institute to be very rewarding. There are also several opportunities that deal with statistical analysis. The labor climate is different in every industry, and there are a wide array of issues that workers face across sectors. The Worker Institute does a good job of getting involved in many different areas in order to create a presence in New York City and Upstate New York.