Rachel Bernstein directs LaborArts and is a public historian who researches, writes about and teaches American working class history, with a particular focus on New York City. She taught in the graduate program in public history at NYU for decades, and works on public history projects with the Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at NYU and elsewhere. She is author, with the late Debra E. Bernhardt, of Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives: A Pictorial History of Working People in New York City (NYU Press, 2000, 2020), and with Bernhardt, Evie Rich, Esther Cohen, Donald Rubin and the late Henry Foner, co-founded LaborArts in 2000.
May Ying Chen is a labor organizer and advocate for immigrant workers who devoted 25+ years to the garment workers’ union in New York City (Local 23-25 Workers United/SEIU). Until her retirement in 2009, she was the Manager of Local 23-25 and Vice President of the International Union–working on union contracts, worker benefits, worker education programs and political and voter registration campaigns. She was a founding member of the AFL-CIO’s Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA). She has continued organizing and educating workers with CUNY Murphy Center for Labor Education, LaborArts, the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, the Tenement Museum, the Museum of Chinese in America, and with the W.O.W. (Wing on Wo) Project, dedicated to protecting Chinatown’s creative culture.
Esther Cohen is a book doctor, teacher, cultural activist and lover of words. She’s taught writing at The New School and Manhattanville College, been a book publisher in Hebrew, English, and Arabic, a gallery curator, a labor union activist, and a creative director. As Executive Director of Bread and Roses, a national union cultural program, she developed unseenamerica, giving cameras and classes to thousands of people around the country to reveal their stories from the perspective of what they see, and in 2013 she started unheardamerica, a companion program telling stories. She is a co-founder of LaborArts, author of six books, and has written a poem a day since 2019 at Overheard.
Evelyn Jones Rich has been a public school teacher and principal as well as (Associate) Dean, Hunter College, CUNY, and an historian of African history. In retirement she served as Executive Director of The Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation. She is a co-founder of LaborArts and a life long trouble maker and activist in the fight for civil rights, effective education, and for the rights of senior citizens. Her adventures include taking teachers to Africa to develop realistic curricula for U.S. elementary and secondary schools; lobbying the NY State legislature for adequate school funding with the Educational Priorities Panel; testifying before local and state legislatures on a host of issues from redistricting to health care and aging concerns; and helping elect progressive candidates to political office with Americans for Democratic Action (ADA).
LaborArts intern Leah Marks is a 29-year-old native New Yorker who holds an MA in history from American University. She specializes in Public History with a specific interest in American Jewish History.
Webmaster Drew Durniak was on the staff of Village Preservation for many years and now works as a web consultant.
Paul Madlon has designed much of the site, and guided the transition to a new platform for the site.
Maggie Goss and her talented designers at Goss Creative have been designing extraordinary exhibits for us since 2010.
2023 LaborArts Advisory Board
Shanika Carlies worked as a LaborArts intern while attending Brooklyn College – CUNY, graduating in 2019 with a BA in Journalism. It was during her time working in LaborArts that she was introduced to the history of the labor movement & experiences of the people who lived within it. She now works as the assistant coordinator for student & academic services at the Liberty Partnerships Program (LPP), a tutoring & mentoring program to help students succeed in school.
Lucia Gomez is Political Director of the NYC Central Labor Council – AFL-CIO. Prior to joining the NYC CLC, Lucia was the Director of Organizing and Strategic Partnerships for LiUNA/ New York State Laborers’ Union Local 78. In different capacities, her life’s work has been around empowering Latinos, immigrants and their communities to take action through grassroots organizing, leadership development and civic engagement.
John Hyslop is an archivist and labor leader. Under his leadership as president the Queens Library Guild (Local 1321, AFSCME) in 2014 won back the jobs of library workers laid-off in 2010. The local also stopped the library from contracting out security guards and custodians and organized non-union staff, eventually adding 100 new union members. Hyslop has also served since 2019 as Secretary of AFSCME’s District Council 37, where his longstanding interest in preserving the history of the union movement culminated in the forming of the DC 37 Archives Committee.
Sherry Kane is a founding member of the board of the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, and works as program director for the Workers United Education Program/CWE, an adult education program for union and community members. Previously she spent many years as Communications Director for a local of the NYC garment workers’ union.
Mei Lum is the fifth-generation owner of Wing on Wo & Co. (W.O.W.), the oldest continuously operating store in Manhattan’s Chinatown. The shop works to breathe new life into cultural craft by reinterpreting tradition through an Asian American lens. Revamping the porcelain selection and showcasing its brand online, she simultaneously founded an initiative to engage the community to push back against the threat of gentrification in Chinatown. Wing on Wo and the community initiative, called The W.O.W. Project, are serving as a beacon and model for others who wish to protect and grow the Chinatown community in Manhattan.
Natalie Monarez works as an Amazon Warehouse Associate and Labor Advocate at the JFK8 Fulfillment Center in Staten Island. She is also an activist for women’s rights, a former Congressional campaign organizer, and was a lead organizer for the Amazon Labor Union.
Shannon O’Neill is (since 2019) curator for the Tamiment-Wagner Collections at NYU’s Bobst Library, which document histories of social movements, the political Left, and labor organizing. Previously she was the Director of Archives and Special Collections at Barnard College, and a librarian and archivist at the Atlantic City Public Library and the Los Angeles Public Library. Her archival practice is guided by Howard Zinn’s words about this “inevitably political craft”, saying: “Zinn’s words guide my practice and remind me that archives are a site of violence and erasure for people of color, disabled people, poor people, queer people, and so many others within and at the intersections of marginalized identities…. To humanize this political craft is to shift the balance of power of the archive back to the communities whose histories are represented within it.”
Katie Unger is an independent strategic research consultant and trainer for labor and social justice organizations and a fourth-generation New York labor activist. Her clients have included Color of Change, New York Communities for Change, the Advocacy Institute, the National Employment Law Project and others. She has spent more than a decade developing organizing campaigns in the fast-food, laundry and other industries, including the Change to Win labor federation. Katie recently served the City of New York working with communities on progressive policies as a Deputy Commissioner of the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit. Katie also organizes with Showing Up for Racial Justice and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and has written about work and the new economy for City Limits
Julie Xu is a membership organizer with the CAAAV Chinatown Tenants Union. She was born in Sichuan Province and grew up in Michigan and has experiences in student organizing in Chicago around sexual assault survivors, police accountability, and economic justice. She most recently organized nail salon workers across New York City for health, dignity, and justice as a part of the labor movement with Workers United. She has her BA from the University of Chicago in History and Comparative Race & Ethnic Studies writing her senior thesis on Interracial Relationships in Chicago’s Chinatown 1850-1930. She is inspired and fueled by all the people and women throughout history we cannot name.
Michael Yee is a driving force behind the rich educational and cultural programs provided to the electricians and apprentices of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 3. He is currently the Director of the union’s Education and Cultural Trust Fund, after overseeing Local 3’s finances for over a decade as Treasurer of the union. A member of the union since 1986, as an educator he showcased training and safety of current technology in the electrical maintenance industry. Michael Yee also serves as the National Treasurer of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA).
LaborArts Board of Directors
Rachel Bernstein – Director
May Ying Chen – Director
Esther Cohen – President
Michael Koncewicz – Treasurer – is the Michael Nash Research Scholar and Ewen Center Coordinator at the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at New York University. His first book They Said ‘No’ to Nixon: Republicans Who Stood Up to the President’s Abuses of Power was published by the University of California Press in 2018. He has taught history courses at New York University, the City University of New York, St. Francis College and is currently working on a book on the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam.
Evelyn Jones Rich – Director