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ULI Graduation Class

About the New York State AFL-CIO / Cornell 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.

ULI ventures beyond the traditional “skills-building“ approach in labor leadership training, using a transformational model of leadership development as a tool to build inclusion and solidarity. We are a unique, multi-union, multi-sector statewide certificate program where participants share ideas and common concerns, acquire new tools, sharpen skills, and connect with other worker leaders in the New York labor and worker justice movements.

It helps build a statewide network of visionary leaders who can advance collective bargaining and worker representation in communities and workplaces.


The curriculum is divided into three parts—a week-long retreat at the start and end of the program and three weekends in between—facilitated by a team of experienced and dynamic instructors. We are committed to active learning and use a wide range of participatory approaches. The curriculum is designed to adjust to the needs and challenges ULI participants are facing within their own organizations. ULI provides space for leaders to explore strategic challenges they face in the workplace and society. Instructors facilitate a process of coaching and mentoring to assist participants develop mastery in three key areas of leadership development. 


During the first week-long retreat in Ithaca, leaders use the time and space to examine their own personal styles and leadership habits and support each other in their process of leadership growth.  


During three long weekends between December and March, ULI empowers participants to build organizations that can be more adaptive, relevant, and effective in a dramatically and rapidly changing world while working on a field project.  


During the closing week-long retreat, ULI participants learn to lead in ways that strengthen their organizations and help build a transformative and inclusive social movement in the 21st century. 

Participants are also required to complete a leadership project (field work) that allows them to apply the skills learned to lead a transformational project within their union or organization. Attendance at all five retreats is required for successful graduation of the program. 

Additionally, three optional electives can be chosen from the non-credit public programming offered by Cornell during the one-year program, and for one year after graduation. 

There’s no doubt in my mind that what we learned in this Institute as labor leaders will carry us through the tumultuous times ahead.
Randi DiAntonio, ULI Class of 2018

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

ULI Alumni Shares His Leadership Path to Public Office

A spotlight on ULI alumni, Randy Brolo.
Randy Brolo - ULI alumni spotlight
ULI Alumni Shares His Leadership Path to Public Office

ULI Graduation February 2023

The Union Leadership Institute (ULI) graduation was held at the Cornell ILR NYC offices on Feb 10. Participants celebrated their accomplishments with family and friends.
ULI Graduation 2023 group pic
ULI Graduation February 2023

Faculty and Staff

  • Senior Extension Associate

  • Program Coordinator

  • Senior Extension Associate

  • Senior Extension Associate, Labor Leadership Team

David Unger is a Senior Extension Associate for the Worker Institute’s Labor Leadership Team, where he works to help build the NYS AFL-CIO/Cornell Union Leadership Institute’s pres

  • Director of the National Labor Leadership Initiative

Kathleen Mulligan is the Director of Labor Leadership Programs, and Co-Director of the National Labor Leadership Initiative, at Cornell University’s ILR School.

  • Director of Organizational and Leadership Development at the Solidarity Center

Al Davidoff is the Director of Organizational and Leadership Development at the Solidarity Center, the US labor movement's global arm, with 280 staff in over 60 countries.

  • Extension Associate, Labor Leadership Programs

Natalia Navas joins The Worker Institute as an Extension Associate – Labor Leadership Programs.


To speak with someone about the program or to request an information packet contact: 
Elaine Kim, Director of New York State AFL-CIO/Cornell Union Leadership Institute at

New York State AFL-CIO/Cornell Union Leadership Institute

The Worker Institute, ILR School
Cornell University
570 Lexington Ave
12th floor, New York, NY 10022



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