Les Leopold, Executive Director
After graduating from Oberlin College and Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (MPA 1975), Les co-founded the Labor Institute (1976), a non-profit organization that designs research and educational programs on occupational safety and health, the environment and economics for unions, worker centers and community organizations. In addition to his current book, Runaway Inequality: An Activist’s Guide to Economic Justice (Labor Institute Press, 2015), he is the author of How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour: Why Financial Elites get away with siphoning off America’s Wealth (John Wiley and Sons, 2013); The Looting of America: How Wall Street’s Game of Fantasy Finance destroyed our Jobs, Pensions and Prosperity, and What We Can Do About It, (Chelsea Green Publishing, June 2009); The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor: The Life and Times of Tony Mazzocchi, (Chelsea Green Publishing, June 2006). The Mazzocchi story won the Independent Publisher Award for best biography. He is currently helping to build a national economic educational train-the-trainer program with unions and community groups. All proceeds from his current book go back into this campaign.
Jim Young, Principal and Secretary
Jim has more than 25 years of experience working with unions and labor coalitions and has been with The Labor Institute since 2005. He currently leads the LI’s work with the United Steelworkers on member education about climate change and environmental policy, working closely with USW District 12, which covers 11 western states in the US, and with USW District 4, which covers the the Northeast.
In 2006, Jim and the LI’s Les Leopold helped the United Steelworkers and Sierra Club found the BlueGreen Alliance, a national labor-environment collaboration that now includes nine of the country’s largest unions and five of the largest environmental organizations. From 2006-2014 Jim helped build the organization, serving as BGA’s Vice President of Programs. He also authored or co-authored numerous reports for the BGA, including Building the Clean Energy Assembly Line: How Renewable Energy Can Revitalize U.S. Manufacturing and the American Middle Class (2009).
Prior to joining the Labor Institute, Jim was a media and strategy consultant to many unions, including 1199 Service Employees International Union, Utility Workers Union of America, and the Association of Flight Attendants. He also worked for both the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) and the New Jersey Work Environment Council (WEC), the oldest and largest statewide labor-environment alliance in the country. Jim now serves on the WEC Board of Directors. He also is a co-founder – and now serves on the Network Council of – the Cancer Free Economy Network, a national collaboration that aims to reduce the incidence of cancer and chronic diseases connected to toxic, environmental exposures.
Jim is an expert on the subject of “Just Transition” for workers and speaks frequently on this topic. He is carrying on longstanding work led by the Labor Institute, as the concept was invented by Tony Mazzocchi and the term was coined by Les Leopold and Canadian trade union leader Brian Kohler. Over the past several years, Jim has developed model transition programs and strategies that are being used to develop state policy in Washington, Oregon and New Jersey. Along with the United Steelworkers District 12 and the Washington State Labor Council, he recently assisted the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts with the development of a groundbreaking Just Transition research report, entitled “A Green New Deal for Washington State.”
A former full-time journalist, Jim has written about labor rights, about workplace safety and health, and about the environment for Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Newark Star-Ledger, Working USA, In These Times, The Village Voice, The Guardian (U.K.), Sierra Magazine and many other publications.
Rodrigo Toscano, Project Director
Rodrigo has worked for the Labor Institute since 1999. He is a certified NIEHS (National Institute of Environmental Health Science) Health & Safety, and Environment bi-lingual training coordinator, OSHA Susan Hardwood Grant trainer, an authorized OSHA outreach trainer/coordinator in General Industry as well as in Construction. Rodrigo coordinates the NIEHS Department of Energy grant with native American partners, Yakima Nation and Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla United Steelworkers and workers centers, New Labor, Make The Road, and National Day Laborers Network. Rodrigo is currently working on the Covid-19 crises, helping to design safe back-to-work models for unions, Native American tribes and communities of color. Rodrigo played a lead role through the NIEHS EPA grant in organizing community based cleanup efforts in New York and New Jersey in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy by helping local organizations build lasting and effective second-wave response structures. As a training coordinator for the United Steelworkers, Rodrigo has been working in conjunction with the Tony Mazzocchi Center in a nation-wide cross-organizational 5-year effort to adapt Labor Institute / USW OSH curriculum and training methods to the Communications Workers of America telecommunications sector. Rodrigo is also a nationally recognized author of experimental poetry. He was a 2007 National Poetry Series Selection, a recipient of a 2005 New York State Fellowship in Poetry and two Fund for Poetry grants. His works have appeared in numerous anthologies, including Best American Poetry (2004). His critical and poetic works have appeared in over 150 journals and magazines. He has given talks, conferences, and readings in over 70 colleges and universities around the country and abroad. rt5le9 (@) aol (dot) com
Sally Silvers, Financial Manager
Has been the Financial Manager for The Labor Institute since 1981. She has overseen and managed the New York State Hazard Abatement Grants, OSHA training grants, and more than 25 years of NIEHS grants. She also was finance manager for The Public Health Institute, Inc. during its developmental role for the BlueGreen Alliance. She is a member of the United Steelworkers. Sally is also a Guggenheim award winning choreographer/performer who has made more than 50 dances for her group, Sally Silvers & Dancers in NYC. She has been profiled in The New Yorker, and reviewed multiple times in The New York Times and many other publications. She has taught dance and toured nationally and internationally; she choreographed three musicals for the Sundance Theater Festival & co-directed two award winning experimental dance films. Her essays have been published in many journals and poetry magazines, including an anthology of new writings by women published by the University of Illinois Press. Examples of her writing and choreography can be found at SallySilversDance.com.
Arturo Archila, Project Director
Arturo has worked for the Labor Institute since 2015. He is a Master Trainer in the Construction and General Industry Field and he is also a certified NIEHS Health & Safety, Infectious Disease, Resiliency and Environment bi-lingual training coordinator, an authorized OSHA outreach trainer/coordinator in General Industry as well as in Construction. He is currently the project director for the New York State Hazard Abatement Board grant. He was recently the NIEHS Health & Safety Liaison between the United Steelworkers and Wind of the Spirit, Worker Justice Project, New Immigrant Community Empowerment, El Centro, Workplace Project, Center for Popular Democracy, La Colmena, New Labor, Make The Road, and National Day Laborers Network. The project has been an incredible support for worker centers in providing capacity building and developing a cadre of Authorized Outreach trainers that have as a mission to reach out to immigrant workers and provide access to Health and Safety Training in a language and manner understood by the local communities. The overarching aim is to dramatically decrease fatalities in the workplace, specifically the injuries and fatalities of Latinos in the workplace. Similar efforts are being replicated in Washington State with the Yakima Nation.
As part of the collaboration with the Steel Workers, Arturo is part of the SERT Specialized Emergency Response Trainer team. Through the project, strong connections have been created between USW and grassroots organizations to respond to local disasters such as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria in Houston and Puerto Rico.
Arturo is currently a Building Power Node Leader and a Network Council Member in The “Cancer Free Economy” Network is a growing collaboration of 50+ organizations working together in aligned, cross-sector projects to eliminate toxic chemicals associated with cancer and other chronic diseases, from where we live, learn, work, play and pray. It is a network of member organizations, not a new organization itself, that is governed by a Network Council made up of working group leaders and contributing foundations.
Arturo works part time as a field organizer for USW District 4. The campaigns focus on marginalized workers in an array of industries that include warehousing, clerical, material handling and manufacturing. The campaigns reflect the power of building alliances among community base organizations and successful Union drives.