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ULI Class of 2021

ULI 2021 Returns to Ithaca Campus

Members of this year’s Union Leadership Institute class convened in July for their second retreat of a three-retreat series on the Ithaca campus. For union leaders, the past 18 months have been uniquely stressful. All of us have had to cope with dramatic changes to our work-life arrangements, parenting while working, missing family, adapting to online technology, and the like. But union leaders have coped with the added stress of trying to protect their members, many of whom have labored on the frontlines as essential workers. Our leaders have had to fight for better health and safety protections, and better benefits for out-of-work employees. And they have carried the emotional burdens of caring for workers and their families during unbearably challenging times.

All of that context made this meeting especially sweet and joyful. Together, we explored the challenges of leading through this moment – building more powerful organizations, embarking on leadership projects that can transform the world of work, and maintaining our energy and inspiration. We had courageous conversations about race and gender justice. And we learned about innovative approaches to organizing from leaders who are forging new paths: Theressa Council-Harvey, UNITE-HERE; Cecilia Myart-Cruz, United Teachers of LA; and Marrisa Senteno, National Domestic Workers Association. Additionally, John Doherty, Communications Director for the International Union of Painters & Allied Trades shared the story of his leadership, and gave participants a window into IUPAT’s process of broadening its agenda to include racial justice, immigrant justice, and climate change.

This year’s ULI class includes 22 leaders from across New York State and across all sectors of union organizing, from teachers to hospital employees, building and construction workers to high school principals, leaders of local AFL-CIO federations, and non-profit service workers. As always, our facilitation team came away from the retreat feeling we learned as much as we taught, and our own sources of inspiration were renewed by the powerful work these leaders are undertaking.

It was a special joy to experience the natural beauty of Cornell’s Ithaca campus, which added a restorative element to the retreat and afforded opportunities to connect with the larger ILR community.


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