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Unionizing the Ivory Tower: Cornell Workers’ Fifteen-Year Fight for Justice and a Living Wage

The Worker Institute is sponsoring a special book event that should interest everyone in our ILR School. Unionizing the Ivory Tower chronicles how a thousand low-paid custodians, cooks, and gardeners succeeded in organizing a union at Cornell University.
Picketing workers
Unionizing the Ivory Tower: Cornell Workers’ Fifteen-Year Fight for Justice and a Living Wage

Equity in Focus Series


February 24, 2022

Job Creation for a Just Society 

We explore how equity in job creation is defined – with a focus on job growth through the current expansion of infrastructure investment. 


April 26, 2022

Investing in Childcare Careers 

We explore the challenges of the childcare industry and highlight local examples that are improving access to child care while also raising wages for child care workers.


June 29, 2022

Building a Diverse and Inclusive Clean Energy Workforce

How the U.S. can tackle the climate crisis and create high-quality union jobs for women and frontline communities of color that suffer the most from climate change, pollution and historic inequities.


September 22, 2022

Equity in Focus Summit

The US Department of Labor Women’s Bureau and The Worker Institute co-hosted a day-long conversation on how prioritizing gender and racial equity promotes a strong and just economy.   


 April 19, 2023

Equity in Focus Job Creation For a Just Society, Report Launch

The Worker Institute released its Equity in Focus Report which captures lessons learned from our partners in the field driving innovation in job creation for women and workers of color. This report is a compilation of key findings to emerge out of our one-year webinar series conducted in partnership with the U. S. Department of Labor Women's Bureau.

The Worker Institute serves as a hub for policy research, publication, and training for policymakers, entrepreneurs, and activists engaged in the public debate to reduce economic inequality.

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Equity at Work

The Equity at Work initiative examines how the workplace is impacted by the evolving and changing norms of the social construction of gender roles, identity, and expression. This includes discussion of current and evolving workers' rights, the workplace contexts in which they currently exist, and individual, organizational and cultural interventions that promote and expand employment issues of respect, fairness, equity and justice.

Find out more about Equity at Work

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Precarious Work

The Precarious Workforce Initiative focuses on the labor rights and socioeconomic conditions of low-wage and contingent workers, who receive little or no benefits and have largely no institutional or legal protection.

These workers constitute the most vulnerable segment of the workforce. Their ranks include, but are not limited to, day laborers, immigrants, domestic workers, young workers, the unemployed and the formerly incarcerated.

Learn more about Precarious Work

Labor Leadership Development


The Worker Institute builds on a 75-year tradition by the ILR School to help fulfill Cornell’s land grant mission – to assist working people in ensuring their rights on the job and in building effective organizations and strong communities.

Our Labor Leadership Development work focuses on labor movement leadership development, strategy design and organizational change in unions, professional associations and other worker organizations.


ULI Class of 2019
Discover our Labor Leadership Development programs

Education and Training

For over 75 years, the Cornell ILR School has provided support, education and scholarship to assist working people in ensuring their rights on the job and building effective organizations and strong communities. The Worker Institute's training and education programs are designed to deepen the knowledge and strengthen the skills of union leaders, activists, and staff. We offer several ways for students to pursue their goals. Learn more.


Managing with Labor's Values

It is critical that managers at unions and social justice organizations receive training to become effective leaders and make the best use of limited resources. Participants learn techniques for helping their staff succeed and respond appropriately to common issues while honoring the values of the labor movement.


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Register Here

Free Workplace Health and Safety Virtual Series

Learn from and ask questions to a certified industrial hygienist, biologist and chemist and expert on occupational health and safety every second Friday, starting in September.

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Learn More

Union Leadership Institute

The New York State AFL-CIO/Cornell Union Leadership Institute (ULI) prepares labor and worker-justice leaders to effectively and strategically advance the rights of workers. Founded in 2001, ULI helps labor and worker justice leaders strengthen their organizations so that they are bold, innovative and able to adapt to a changing global economy and workforce.

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Learn More

Student Engagement


The Worker Institute at Cornell is committed to engaging Cornell ILR undergraduate and graduate students through our coursesresearch fellowshipsgraduate programs, and other professional development opportunities.


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Learn more about our work with students.

Custodian to National Union Leader: an ILRie’s Journey

An ILR student helped establish the United Auto Workers Local 2300, which now represents Cornell building maintenance and service workers.
Al Davidoff ’80
Custodian to National Union Leader: an ILRie’s Journey

Remembering the Triangle Fire

The Kheel Center, ILRies and Cornellians carry on the collective action legacy that grew from the Triangle Factory Fire disaster.
Cornell students at the Triangle Fire memorial
Remembering the Triangle Fire

Lively Panel Launches Worker Institute’s New Prevailing Wage Report

Prevailing wage laws protect New Yorkers from a race to the bottom, panelists said during the launch of the new report by Cornell ILR’s The Worker Institute on Sept. 12.
WI Prevailing Wage event
Lively Panel Launches Worker Institute’s New Prevailing Wage Report

Assessing the Impact of Prevailing Wage Benefits on Workers, Contractors, and the New York City Economy

This research report illustrates how PW laws might make union construction labor more cost effective than non-union construction labor for PW jobs.
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Assessing the Impact of Prevailing Wage Benefits on Workers, Contractors, and the New York City Economy

SDA Delegates visit Cornell ILR

On Tuesday, September 5, Cornell ILR hosted a delegation of five Australian labor leaders from the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) at our NYC conference center. SDA is Australia’s largest private sector union, representing 210,00 workers in retail, warehousing, fast food and other related industries.
delegation post
SDA Delegates visit Cornell ILR

Labor Day 2023: ILR’s Worker Institute Reflects and Recommits

We at the Worker Institute are proud of our continued work to support union and worker justice leaders with research, training, and education. We seek to equip change-makers with the skills to challenge the increasing levels of income inequality and worker precarity.
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Labor Day 2023: ILR’s Worker Institute Reflects and Recommits

Lois Gray Innovation Initiative 

The Lois Gray Innovation Initiative was founded by labor pioneer Lois Gray to generate innovative thinking and solutions to problems related to work, economy, and society.

The Lois Gray Innovation Fund provide financial incentives for collaboration between resident and extension faculty in relation to priority programs of The Worker Institute.

It ensures faculty, researchers and students have the opportunity to fulfill the institute’s mission of advancing worker rights and collective representation.


Lois Gray, ILR School faculty member
Learn more about the Initiative


The Worker Institute at Cornell engages in research and education on contemporary labor issues, to generate innovative thinking and solutions to problems related to work, economy and society. The institute brings together researchers, educators and students with practitioners in labor, business and policymaking to confront growing economic and social inequalities, in the interests of working people and their families. Learn more.

Our Mission

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Read more about the Worker Institute

Meet our Team

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Learn more about our staff

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