The Staff



Les Leopold, Executive Director and President: Les, a graduate of Oberlin College (BA 1969) and Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School for Pubic and International Affairs (MPA 1975), co-founded the Labor Institute with the economist David M. Gordon (1944-1996).

He is the author of:

He is currently the principal for the 2014-2015 New York State Hazard Abatement Board grant. 


Jim Young, Principal and Secretary. Jim has more than 20 years of experience working with unions and labor coalitions and has been with The Labor Institute since 2005. He is currently leading the LI’s work with the United Steelworkers on member education about climate change, working closely with USW District 12, which covers 11 western states in the US. In 2006, Jim and the LI’s Les Leopold helped the United Steelworkers and Sierra Club found the BlueGreen Alliance – and from 2006-2014 Jim served as BGA’s Vice President of Programs. He also authored or co-authored numerous reports, 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. 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, The Village Voice, The Guardian (U.K.), Sierra Magazine and many other publications.


Sally Silvers has been the Financial Manager for The Labor Institute since 1981. She has overseen and managed several New York State Hazard Abatement Grants, OSHA, NYDOL, and NIEHS grants and also worked 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.

Rodrigo Toscano

Rodrigo Toscano, Project Director. Rodrigo has worked for the Labor Institute since 2000. He is a certified NIEHS 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. He is currently the project director for the New York State Hazard Abatement Board grant. He was recently the NIEHS Sandy Cleanup Health & Safety Liaison between the United Steelworkers and workers centers, New LaborMake The Road, and National Day Laborers Network. 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). With appearances in over 100 journals in the U.S. and abroad, Rodrigo has also worked on six editorial boards.