The School of Industrial and Labor Relations’ legacy in the city and state of New York was celebrated Feb. 28 at the grand opening of its new Manhattan headquarters.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon spoke about the ILR School’s role in shaping a strong workplace for the future.
“This expansion means a lot … your work is absolutely crucial. Your expanding can only mean great things for New York City and for this country,” de Blasio told 175 people gathered at the 570 Lexington Ave. hub for ILR and nine other Cornell colleges and programs.
“This is a place where generations of really talented, committed people have been trained to create a productive positive relationship between labor and management to move us all forward,” the mayor said.
He credited ILR alum and Cornell trustee Martin F. Scheinman ‘75, M.S. ‘76, an arbitrator, with helping the city and 380,000 workers in 100-plus union locals agree to contracts in recent years.
“He was the one who helped people find their way” to labor-management agreements that “created an atmosphere of respect,” de Blasio said. “ILR has always been [about] how we can get someplace that people may have presumed impossible, where we can find agreement where people might have thought it could not exist, how we can create unity, how we create common cause. … This place is part of the formula of the future.”
Said Reardon, a 2005 graduate of the ILR-based New York State AFL-CIO/Cornell Union Leadership Institute (ULI): “The things that I learned in the [ULI] classes profoundly changed my life. I call on that knowledge every day. It is an integral part of what I do.
“The ILR School is near and dear to my heart. It has truly been a game-changer for my professional development,” she said. “The things that I learned in the classes and the amazing wisdom I gathered from my colleagues and my fellow students changed my life. As I travel around the state, I look out at the crowd and I see my classmates as labor leaders. It’s a real testament to the school.”
When co-founding SAG-AFTRA, Reardon said, “People from Cornell were involved in every step of that process. I called on my friends to help me through difficult times. You always said ‘yes.’”
Reardon lauded the Worker Institute’s Labor Leading on Climate initiative, which includes creating jobs as New York state develops a clean energy economy. The commissioner also noted ILR’s arts and entertainment research and sexual harassment training programs.
“As income inequality increases, I’m thrilled to see ILR double down on our land-grant mission and commitment to improve the lives of working people in New York state,” she said.
Reardon is a fellow of ILR’s Worker Institute and was a recipient of a leadership institute scholarship named in honor of Lois Gray, who was at the center of ILR from the 1940s until her death in 2018.
ILR Interim Dean Alex Colvin said the new space continues ILR’s legacy in New York City, where the school began offering programs in the 1940s, and establishes a new hub for the university. “This is going to be … a real Cornell location.”
Mary Catt is assistant director of communications at the ILR School.