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.
our Statement of Purpose
Sumner M. Rosen
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
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 Economv after Word 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.
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.
Learninq at MIT
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
presidential candidate who can demonstrate to the country the potential of
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
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
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.
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.
must study war and politics so that
children shall be free to study
agriculture and other practicalities,
that their children can study painting, poetry and other fine things.