The Five Borough Institute is a non-partisan research and educational organization whose mission is to encourage the development and implementation of sound and progressive public policies. It will focus on urban economic and political issues, especially those that affect New York City and it surrounding region, including global economic forces that threaten the jobs and livelihood of working people.

From our Statement of Purpose


The First Annual Sumner Rosen 

Memorial Lecture

The Labor Movement and United Action for Health Care

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Reception 6:00PM - Lecture 6:45 PM

SEIU Local 32BJ Auditorium

101 Avenue of the Americas

Sixth Ave between Grand & Watt Sts, one block north of Canal St

Take A, C, E, or 1 train to Canal St.




   Leo Gerard

President of The United Steelworkers of America AFL-CIO


       Event Chair:               

                                Ed Ott

      Director of Public Policy, NYC Central Labor Council AFL-CIO


Co-Sponsoring Organizations: AFSCME DC 37Committee of Interns & Residents SEIUCommunications Workers of America Local 1180 Community Service Society of New York

Congregation B’nai Jeshurun Congress of Senior CitizensCornell Labor ProgramsCouncil Municipal Retiree OrganizationsGreater New York Labor-Religion Coalition                            

Healthcare NOWJews For Economic and Racial JusticeJobs For All CoalitionJoseph Murphy Institute for Labor & Public Affairs Long Island Coalition of National Health Plans

Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia UniversityMake the Road by WalkingMetro Health Care for All CampaignNational Association of Social Workers NYC Chapter

New Immigrant Community EmpowermentNYC Labor Council for Latin American AdvancementNew York Committee Occupational Safety & HealthNew York Immigration Coalition

New York Jobs With Justice New York State Nurses Association Physicians for a National Health ProgramProfessional Staff Congress CUNY, AFT, AFL-CIO

Transport Workers Union Local 100United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1500Workers Defense League


 Donations Gratefully Accepted                                  

This Event is Free and Open to The Public

Space is Limited RSVP:email@RekindlingReform.org

               Or Call -  212-580-3890


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              Mail to:  The Sumner Rosen Memorial  Fund

                                                  c/o The Five Borough Institute

                                                  155 West 72nd Street, Suite #402, NYC 10023

Email_________________________________   Phone_______________  

 I will be bringing ___________ guests.                                               

  Enclosed is a donation to the Sumner Rosen Memorial Fund                       

  Please make checks payable to The Five Borough Institute

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Sumner M. Rosen


In Memoriam


The Board of Directors of the Five Borough Institute mourns the passing of its founder and Chairman, Prof. Sumner M. Rosen. Prof. Rosen was dedicated throughout his life to the working people of this world. He fought for economic, political, and cultural advancement for the workers of this country and this City, and expressed with passion and eloquence the need for a revival of the spirit of solidarity and public sector responsibility that  characterized the New Deal period. He was an optimist who, in the worst of political times, always looked forward. As he wrote in the June 2003  issue of The Five Borough Report, "Working people can take control of their own lives in a serious and comprehensive way. I have seen enough examples in different parts of the world to know that it can be done....Our task today is not only to resist politically the currently dominant globally-militarized political economy but to prepare for that change." We were energized by his words and remain committed to his vision of a better life for all people.


The Future of the Five Borough Institute

A Prospectus Prepared by Sumner M. Rosen July 2005


E.F. Schumacher said, "We never know when the winds of change will blow, but when they do we should have our sails at the ready." The Five Borough Institute has the opportunity now to play a decisive role in shaping the political economy of the New York region, and to fulfill the pledge we made to each other when we founded the institute.

The New York Economy after World War II

New York City and the region generated 1 million jobs in the post- war years, covering a wide range of small and medium-sized firms across the full spectrum of economic activity. Unlike the middle west and major industrial areas, this economy remained productive and profitable.

A major reason was that there were no ideological struggles between employers and unions since the great demonstrations of 1914. Labor unions across the full ideological spectrum were strong and active protectors of the city's working class and that remains true on the whole today.

Learning at MIT

My first year as a graduate student of labor studies at MIT yielded two major insights. One of my teachers was the gifted Joseph Scanlon, disciple of Clinton Golden. Scanlon worked with many metal-working firms with union contracts. When they experienced economic difficulties and no remedy seemed to work, he persuaded the CEO's to ask the workers how they thought the problems facing the firm could be solved. This simple question worked miracles. Workers who, in effect, checked their brains when they went to work, were now encouraged to share their accumulated knowledge and insight in a joint effort to restore profitability.

We graduate students had the privilege of sitting in and observing regular meetings that were chaired by top management and were devoted to identifying problems and proposing solutions. Nobody was excluded. Every proposal got serious consideration, judged on their merits.

Scanlon then would devise a formula that would estimate the contribution that all the ideas had made to the companies' sales and all the workers would then share equally in the bonus, regardless of rank or status. The employer also received a share.

My second insight grew out of the internship I had that summer with Solomon Barkin. Barkin was the chief economist for the textile workers union, which still had significant employment in southeastern New England. Barkin's responsibility was to mobilize and coordinate the resources of both employers and unions to protect the jobs at risk from the ultimately successful attraction of the south. They could not sustain those jobs, but they prolonged the process of erosion, using all of the fruits of their experience.

William Gomberg served in a similar role for the ILGWU. He deployed experts in every unionized shop to ensure high quality production in the most volatile, fashion-driven sector. With some seven hundred thousand workers, the union protected its members, provided important benefits, and played a major role in the city's political and economic life under a variety of leaders.

Labor in the 60's

At a time when Lewis and the UMW had lost virtually all of their strength, and the CIO had been forced to subordinate to George Meany's AFL, union leaders in New York were major players in guiding and shaping the political economy of the city. They covered a wide spectrum from building trades led by Harry Van Arsdale to Leon Davis on the left, who organized hospital workers into Local 1199. Mike Quill did not hesitate to shut down the subway and buses. David Dubinsky was a strong leader of the ILGWU. Sidney Hillman led the more progressive Amalgamated Clothing Workers. When these leaders felt it necessary to take action, they did not hesitate.

When Victor Gotbaum assumed the leadership of DC37, he embarked on a series of activities that were successful in organizing thousands of workers in the municipal hospitals and creating for the first time in New York history the equivalent of a national labor relations board, the Office of Collective Bargaining. The union filled Madison Square Garden. Gotbaum did not hesitate to close the bridges, evoking the wrath of the press while mobilizing thousands of workers to join the efforts.

The Fruits of these Labors

In the 1980's I visited Bologna, a flourishing manufacturing economy in a communist led city that earned a reputation as one of the most efficient and effective city governments in Europe. Many of the ingredients in the New York economy, cited earlier, had been adapted by entrepreneurs with deep roots in the working class. The large Italian companies, like Fiat, had left in place a highly skilled and highly trained work force that quickly adapted to the new situation it faced. This region of Italy has consistently generated high rewards for these small entrepreneurial firms. The parallels to the earlier period in New York were striking.

The post war New York economy laid the foundation for what Joshua Freeman describes as "Working Class New York," equivalent in this region of the social democratic systems that have long governed some of the most important economic activities in Europe and Scandinavia.

In the 1960's New York had created the largest municipal hospital system in the world, a major public university with free tuition, the largest and best public housing anywhere and a generally effective system of primary and secondary education. These were in part the results of strong labor leadership, and in part - perhaps more important, the fruits of the collaboration between FDR and LaGuardia in creating the first serious programs of the New Deal. The process is richly documented in Mike Wallace's book, "A New New Deal for New York".

Restoring and Renewing a Productive New York Economy

Seymour Melman insisted correctly that an economy cannot flourish without producing what people want and need. It's not clear today what remains of his role at Columbia University's School of Engineering but it embodies the essence of the path that should be followed.

The resources that can do what Barkin and Gomberg did can be found in the United States, Italy and Scandinavia. The names that come to mind include: in Sweden, Bjorn Gustafsen; in Milan, Oscar Marchisio; at The Wisconsin school for workers, Frank Emspak; at the University of Lowell, Charles Richardson; at Labor Notes, Mike Parker; at The New School, David Heller.

Structure and Management

Support should not be hard to find from George Soros, Michael Bloomberg and others. Bruce Herman is qualified to organize this activity, in part because he knows the Italian metal workers well. In New York, Lance Lindblom heads the Nathan Cummings Foundation. He has a consistent commitment to workers' rights. Others in New York whose interest and role are worth exploring include David Jones at the Community Service Society and Miles Rapoport at DEMOS.

The unions with the greatest stake are Unite-Here, CWA, the building trades, musicians and theatrical unions and others where special skills enable and empower these workers across a wide range of productive activity.

Some Lessons from the Economic and Fiscal Crisis

The sudden shift in the mid-1960's from job growth to sharp decline was a shock and surprise to many. William Tabbs' book The Long Decline told a story that did not get the attention it deserved. We were not prepared to deal effectively with this economic shift or with the fiscal crisis of the 1970's that followed. Major efforts will be required to enable every worker across the full spectrum of race and class to find productive work that fits his or her skills and talents.

Reform of public education is a top priority beginning with the total renewal of the vocational high schools and two-year colleges; the vocational schools in Bologna and Scandinavia are excellent models to follow. We need a comprehensive apprenticeship program across the full range of appropriate occupations.

Farmers markets exemplify farming and a family enterprise that generates high volume and high levels of consumer satisfaction. This region has the potential to demonstrate the power of farmers' markets to help create and sustain a non-destructive form of farming.

Time Table: 2005-2008

A presidential candidate who can demonstrate to the country the potential of aIi modern economy shaped by the principles that created the New York model can dominate the presidential campaign that has already begun, providing a persuasive picture of what is possible and will sweep aside the stale rhetoric that now reduces politics to slogans and threats. Hillary Clinton; can be the right person at the right time.

The Global Economy

The global economy is a clear and present danger to even the best run national or regional economies. The institutions created at Bretton Woods have long since lost their ability to insure stability, reduce levels of poverty and create stable and reliable international systems of trade and exchange.

In recent years, new initiatives promise to provide better stability, equity and opportunity. The initiative began in 1990 at the Copenhagen Social Summit, organized by Juan Somavia, now Director General of the International Labor Organization.

The forums, which were organized in many parts of the world, including Brasilia at the time of the World Social Forum, have generated new thinking about the principles that should govern the global economy. In this effort, Somavia works closely with Lula and others in Latin America and Asia. The recent report, "A Fair Globalization", offers the first draft of a new structure of global economic governance. The central principle is "Decent Work"; it is clear, practical, difficult but achievable. It lays the groundwork for a global economy that will deserve to be called one of the great historic achievements, a renaissance worthy of the highest praise that history and humanity can provide.


I must study war and politics so that

my children shall be free to study

commerce, agriculture and other practicalities,

so that their children can study painting, poetry and other fine things.

-- John Adams




The thirteenth, special issue of the Five Borough Institute's monthly newsletter, The Five Borough Report, was prepared for the Institute’s Symposium and Celebratory Luncheon held on June 20, 2003, in honor of the 80th birthday of the Institute's founding Chair, Prof. Sumner Rosen. The theme of the Symposium was "Resisting the Permanent War Economy: Imperatives for a New New Deal for our Cities".  This special issue, and the supplementary material appended to it, provides a series of reflections and analyses on this theme, looking towards a Cities and Labor New New Deal Coalition. 


We welcome your response to these ideas and proposals.


           SURVEY OF UNION HEALTH PLANS                

             FIRST RESULTS              


  With responses from more than two dozen unions covering hundreds of thousands of members, a survey conducted by the Five Borough Institute, in collaboration with the New York City Central Labor Council, has found that union plans are under severe stress from rising health care costs. Labor negotiations are already being seriously affected by these cost increases.  For more details, see the report of the survey.  The  Survey Report [PDF]  can also be downloaded in the universal portable document format and viewed with Adobe Acrobat, a free download.



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