People at ILR

Jeff Grabelsky
people / faculty

Jeffrey Grabelsky

Senior Extension Associate / Worker Institute / Climate Jobs Institute
Labor and Unions


Jeff Grabelsky is a Senior Extension Associate at the Cornell ILR Worker Institute and ILR Climate Jobs Institute.

He develops and delivers education and training programs and provides research and technical assistance in all aspects of union affairs. The programs he has worked on have reached over 300,000 unionists nationwide.

Jeff began his career in the labor movement working and organizing in the steel industry in 1973, has been a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) for thirty years, and is the former national organizing director of the Building and Construction Trades Department (AFL-CIO).

After September 11, 2001, Jeff represented the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York on the World Trade Center Emergency Project Labor-Management Partnership.

Jeff worked with building trades leaders in Washington, D.C. and New Orleans to plan and launch the Gulf Coast Workforce Development Project, a pre-apprenticeship program offering career opportunities in the building trades for Gulf Coast residents impacted by Hurricane Katrina.

Jeff serves on the Board of Directors of The Edward J. Malloy Initiative for Construction Skills (formerly Construction Skills 2000), a highly effective pre-apprenticeship program based in New York City.

Jeff has written widely on current labor issues, including "Building and Construction Trades Unions: Are They Built to Win?" (Social Policy, Winter 2005); "Standing at a Crossroads: The Building Trades in the Twenty-First Century" (Labor History, Fall 2005, co-authored with Mark Erlich); "Construction or De-Construction? The Road to Revival in the Building Trades" (New Labor Forum, Winter 2007); “A New Alliance for New York State: A Progress Report on the Labor Movement's Restructuring” (Working USA, Spring 2007); “Building a Future Together: Worker Centers and Construction Unions” (Labor Studies Journal, March 2008, co-authored with Janice Fine and Victor Narro); “Building Labor's Power in California,” (Working USA, Spring 2009); “Emerald Cities in the Age of Obama: A New Social Compact Between Labor and Community” (Perspectives at Work, Winter 2010, co-authored with Phil Thompson); “Psychosocial Capacity Building in New York: Building Resiliency With Construction Workers Assigned to Ground Zero After 9/11” (Social Work With Groups, Winter 2010, co-authored with Josh Miller and K.C. Wagner); and “'We're Getting Our Country Back’: Reflections of Politics, Race, Labor and Community In the Age of Obama -- A Conversation with Mark Ayers, President, Building and Construction Trades Department (AFL-CIO)” (Working USA, Winter 2010). He is co-editor of Up Against the Open Shop - New Initiatives in the Building Trades, co-producer of the Construction Industry Audio Project, and co-editor of The Campaign Guide: Organizing the Construction Industry.

Jeff also co-authored the trainer's manuals for the UBCJA and IBEW national steward training programs, COMET (Construction Organizing Membership Education Training), COMET II (Worksite Organizing with COMET Activists), MEMO (Membership Education and Mobilization for Organizing), and the AFL-CIO Voice at Work Membership Mobilization Programs.

Jeff received his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Michigan, his M.A. in U.S. Labor History from Syracuse University, his M.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University, and his Journeyman Electrician Classification from the IBEW.


Journal Articles

  • Jeffrey M Grabelsky. 2010. "'We're Getting Our Country Back' . . .", Working USA . Volume 13 · December 2010(December 2010):545 - 559.
  • Josh Miller , Jeffrey M Grabelsky, K C Wagner, . 2010. Psychosocial Capacity Building in New York: Building resiliency with construction workers assigned to Ground Zero after 9/11, Social Work in Groups .
  • Jeffrey M Grabelsky. 2007. A New Alliance in New York State: A Progress Report on the Labor Movement’s Restructuring, Capacity Building, and Programmatic Work, WorkingUSA . 10(1):9-25.
  • Jeffrey M Grabelsky. 2007. Construction or De-construction? The Road to Revival in the Building Trades, New Labor Forum . 16(2):47-58.
  • Mark Erlich, Jeffrey M Grabelsky. 2005. Standing at a Crossroads: The Building Trades in the Twenty-First Century, Labor History . 46(4):421-445.
  • Jeffrey M Grabelsky. 2004. Building and Construction Trades Unions: Are They Built to Win?, Social Policy . 35(2):35-39.
  • Jeffrey M Grabelsky, Adam Pagnucco, Steve Rockafellow. 1999. Fanning the Flames (After Lighting the Spark): Multi-Trade COMET Programs, Labor Studies Journal . 23(4):34-50.
  • Jeffrey M Grabelsky. 1995. Lighting the Spark: COMET Program Mobilizes the Ranks for Construction Organizing, Labor Studies Journal . 20(2):4-21.
  • Jeffrey M Grabelsky. 1993. Steward Training in the Construction Industry: The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America Faces the Challenge, Labor Studies Journal . 17(4):24-40.
  • Jeffrey M Grabelsky. 1988. Bottom-Up Organizing in the Trades: An Interview with Mike Lucas, IBEW Director of Organizing, Labor Research Review . 12(2):21-36.


  • Jeffrey M Grabelsky. 1989. Short Circuit: The Light and Power Council Strike of 1913 and the Search for Organizational Models in the IBEW. in Occasional Papers Series. Ithaca NY, United States: New York Labor History Association, 1989.

Book Chapters

  • Brian Condit, Tom Davis, Jeffrey M Grabelsky, Fred B Kotler. 1998. Construction Organizing: A Case Study of Success. in Organizing to win: New research on union strategies. Ithaca NY, United States: ILR Press, 1998. K Bronfenbrenner, S Friedman, R W Hurd, R A Oswald, R L Seeber. (309-319)

Conference Proceedings

  • Richard Hurd, Jeffrey M Grabelsky. 1994. Reinventing an Organizing Union: Strategies for Change. in IRRA Proceedings of the Forty-Sixth Annual Meeting. 1994.

Selected Works

Selected Works is a service of BePress Publishing that helps readers follow a scholar's most current work. View Selected Works of Jeffrey Grabelsky

Professional Activities

  • “Organizing Contingent Labor: Lessons from the Past and Struggles of the Future”. Presented to LAWCHA. New York city. 2013.


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