September 16, 2012

Cornell ILR Worker Institute Opens in New York City

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The Worker Institute at Cornell — a forum in New York City created to allow researchers, students and educators to collaborate on research and training on contemporary labor issues — officially launched on Wednesday.The institute, an extension of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, aims to work with labor unions and non-governmental organizations to research labor issues. One of the institute’s major points of focus will be to create workplaces that are more sustainable. “We hope to culminate and expand the ILR School’s current initiatives in these areas,” said Lara Skinner, associate director of research of ILR’s Global Labor Institute. “It’s not a matter of whether we address these issues, but how.”Some of the key issues that studies conducted by the ILR school have previously addressed include environmentally friendly transportation, efficient building designs and renovations to reduce workplace waste. The institute will expand research in these areas, ILR staff said.“Mainstream discourse pits labor against environmentalists, and we try to overcome this,” Skinner said. “Workers want to create a just society in general, which includes the environmental component.”Currently, Skinner — who is conducting research that is being used by the institute — is working on a climate jobs plan for New York State that will address the state’s commitment to reducing emissions as it attempts to transition to an economy with low carbon emissions. Skinner’s study explores how minimizing greenhouse emissions will affect jobs within the state.The institute will also provide education and training for workers and employers, Skinner said.  “Workers know how to improve their workplaces better than anyone else. When we work with worker organizations, our goal is to give workers a voice in their workplace,” Skinner said.    Some students also expressed support for the institute’s goal of improving workplace sustainability.“The institute is a place for students interested in sustainability and ILR; it shows how these things relate,” said Susanne Donovan ’13, a student representative for the institute. Additionally, Casey Sweeney ’13 supported the institution’s goal of teaching students about sustainability.“Moving forward, there is a ton of opportunity for students to see sustainability more broadly and incorporate these efforts into their time at ILR,” Sweeney said. “It is important to make work and life more sustainable in general.”

Original Author: Carolyn Krupski

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