Who We Are

Founded in 1975, certified as a non-profit in 1976, the Labor Institute develops and conducts education and policy programs for unions, environmental organizations, community groups, and immigrant worker centers on workplace health and safety, the environment, economics, and movement building. The idea for creating this Institute came from Tony Mazzocchi (1926-2002), the visionary labor and environmental leader who was a longtime official with the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW) union, now part of the United Steelworkers (USW).  Mazzocchi is widely credited with founding the modern health and safety movement and pioneering some of the first labor-environment alliances. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Mazzocchi).

The Labor Institute makes every effort to ensure that our work is cross-cutting or “intersectional” by first acknowledging the interdependence and interconnectedness of the problems and challenges we all face, and, second, by focusing our strategies on shared solutions that, whenever and wherever possible, forge and fortify alliances.

Our current projects include:

Health and Safety Training for Immigrant Workers:  Through collaboration with Make the Road New York, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), and the Barry Commoner Center for Health and the Environment, Queens College, City University of New York, we have developed and implemented a first-of-its kind health and safety training program in Spanish. In particular we have built extensive health and safety training capacity by becoming one of the few collaborations in the country that develops OSHA-authorized trainers who can provide 10 and 30-hour OSHA construction and general industry classes in Spanish.  We are also developing similar train-the-trainer programs with Native American tribes on a reservation that is also home to the Hanford nuclear site in Washington State.  Support for these programs comes primarily from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) for our national work as part of the Tony Mazzocchi Center for Health, Safety and Environmental Education (TMC) and from and the New York State Department of Labor Hazard Abatement Board for our work within New York State.  In addition to The Labor Institute, TMC includes the United Steelworkers, Communications Workers of America, NDLON and Make the Road New York.

Health and Safety Training for Unions:  Through our partnership with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), The Labor Institute supports health and safety training for union workers engaged in hazardous production represented by the United Steelworkers (USW) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA). In particular we develop programs, write proposals and help ensure continuous assessment and quality control of the curriculum and the training. (For more information see the Tony Mazzocchi Center http://www.uswtmc.org/)

Training for Disaster Clean-up Workers: In cooperation with the Worker Training Program of the NIEHS and the United Steelworkers, we train trainers in the wake of natural disasters. These trainers in turn provide health and safety training in various languages to workers who become engaged in highly hazardous clean-up efforts after hurricanes, floods and fires and other events.  Flowing from the most recent climate science, we view many activities within this body of work as directly linked to global climate change.

Labor Environment Training and Environmental Strategy for Unions: We provide training on the economy and the environment that brings together environmental activists and workers in environmentally sensitive industries.  For example, in Martinez California, we’ve conducted multiple workshops and train-the-trainer programs for oil workers, communications workers and Sierra Club activists. We also develop policy and educational programs that bring workers into the process of forming climate change policies on the West Coast (in California, Washington and Oregon) and on the East Coast (in New Jersey and New York).

Runaway Inequality Educational Network:  We are developing a new national network of lay trainers who conduct workshops on how runaway inequality impacts our economy, our society and our environment.  With over 500 volunteer trainers, we seek to provide an educational framework that links together often fragmented and isolated social justice organizations. Our aim is to build a 30,000 strong educational infrastructure for a new economic justice movement, modeled after the American progressive populists of the 1880s and 1890s. Current partners include the Communications Workers of America, NJ Educational Association, United Steelworkers, United Automobile Workers, Citizen Action NY, American Postal Workers Union, Wilmington, North Carolina, AFL-CIO, Sierra Club, and several Indivisible groups around the country. (For more information and curricula in Spanish and English, see our sister site, RunawayInequality.org)

Cancer Free Economy Network:  The Labor Institute is a lead partner in this growing collaborative of community, labor, health, medical, government and business organizations seeking to help remove cancer causing chemicals from production and use and promote large-scale investment in safer alternatives.  We design and pilot educational programs that are shared throughout the network – and work with grassroots organizations to spread the training to their members.  We lead a “Building Power” working group within the network that is focused on broadening the base of support for safer alternatives, and integrating this work with our economics and climate training and policy development.