Saturday, September 1, 2018

Labor Law Clinic Students Win Settlement for Worker Fired for Union Activities

Cornell Law School has published an article about the students who helped us fight back against our member's unjust termination, resulting in a positive resolution to the NLRB case in December 2017 and the signing of our union contract in April 2018:

"Labor Law Clinic students Michael Iadevaia ’19, David Edelman ’18, and Matt Lutwen ’19 recently won a settlement for their client, Jane Guskin, in a case before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Guskin, who had worked at a nonprofit in New York City for over twenty-four years, had been fired for union-related activity. Guskin had been instrumental in forming a union, starting collective bargaining, and processing grievances on behalf of her coworkers. [...]

"Matt Lutwen said that 'working on the Muste Union's case through its resolution was not only a phenomenal learning experience, but also one of the most meaningful experiences I have had in law school. The work showed me just how important the NLRA's protections are for employees who exercise their collective rights.'" [...]

Read the full article here: 

We are grateful for the support of the Cornell Labor Law Clinic and proud to have given these students a valuable experience that will help them to support other workers in the future. A warm thank you to Michael, David, Matt, and Professor Angela Cornell!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Fri 4/27: Union Contract Celebration

Join the AJ Muste Staff Union in celebrating the recent signing of our collective bargaining agreement!

Friday, April 27, 2018
6pm - 8pm

at the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute
168 Canal Street, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10013

To RSVP or for info: musteunion (at) gmail 
On Facebook:

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Contract Signed! A Victory for Social Justice!

On April 12, 2018, the Muste Institute emailed our union a signed copy of the collective bargaining agreement that we had accepted last February 21, and informed us that they were proceeding to pay us our retroactive salary increases withheld since July of 2016.

The AJ Muste Staff Union is grateful for all the support and solidarity we received from friends and comrades in the social justice and labor rights communities over the course of this long struggle. The contract is a victory for all of us, and for A.J. Muste’s legacy of labor and civil rights organizing.

To all of you who signed and shared our petitions and other messages: stay posted—we are planning a contract celebration, and you’re invited! Solidarity forever!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

No more delays! Sign the union contract NOW!

“The organizations that fund our movements for social
change should reflect the world we hope to build.”
- DrewChristopher Joy, Southern Maine Workers’ Center (Muste grantee),
in a letter of solidarity sent to the Muste Staff Union

@ajmuste: No more delays!
Sign the contract with @musteunion NOW!

The staff at the nonprofit A.J. Muste Memorial Institute won recognition of our independent AJ Muste Staff Union in late 2014. Our union values the Institute’s mission to provide resources and support for grassroots social justice organizing. From the start, we have strived for a collaborative, respectful process that honors A.J. Muste’s labor and civil rights legacy. We believe social justice organizations should be proud to work collaboratively with unionized staff.

Unfortunately, the Muste Institute brought in an attorney from a firm that boasts of keeping workplaces “union free.” With this lawyer dominating the bargaining process, we’ve been repeatedly subjected to insults, delay tactics, provocations, lies, deceptions, multiple cancellations of meetings, refusal to bargain, and many other unfair labor practices straight out of the union-busting playbook.

In August 2017, the Muste Institute fired longtime Program Manager Jane Guskin in retaliation for union activity. In December, a National Labor Relations Board investigation determined that the firing was a violation of the staff’s collective rights. The Institute settled the charge by compensating Jane and posting a notice (see image above) promising to respect the right to organize. While settlements never require an admission of guilt, an NLRB notice is posted only when evidence is overwhelming that the employer broke the law.

Despite these attacks, we have remained committed to dialogue, and on February 20, we finally reached agreement with the Muste Institute management negotiation team on a collective bargaining agreement.

Since then the Muste Institute has delayed signing the agreement, claiming they are still reviewing it, even though it’s their own “best and final offer” and they have insisted since December that they would not accept further changes. They now say they will meet on April 18 to “review” the contract and will let us know their “response” on April 20—implying that they may vote to reject it.

This is unacceptable. Since July 2016, the Muste Institute has refused to pay staff any cost of living increases, telling us we had to accept their version of the contract if we wanted our annual raises. The nearly three-year pay freeze is causing serious hardship for the underpaid staff and their families.

Tell the Muste Institute:
No more delays!! Respect the bargaining process and sign the contract!

You can contact the Muste Institute directly via its website or via mail, email or phone (212-533-4335), or post messages on Facebook or Twitter, tagging @ajmuste and copying our @musteunion. A list of the Muste Institute staff and board of directors is here; if you know the executive director or any of the board members personally, we encourage you to reach out to them to ask why they are delaying signing the contract.

For more information, contact the AJ Muste Staff Union at musteunion(at)gmail.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

What would A.J. do?

“The social justice movement cannot replicate the systems of oppression that we are struggling against.”

- Lynn Lewis, past Muste Institute board member and
former director of Muste grantee Picture the Homeless,
in a letter of solidarity sent to the Muste Staff Union

Thanks to all of you who signed our petition and wrote letters protesting the retaliatory firing of Jane Guskin, and asking the Muste Institute to bargain in good faith with our independent staff union.

We really appreciate your solidarity! We're trying to step up the pressure, so please keep sharing our petition with friends and colleagues through email and social media:

Tell the Muste Institute:

Bargain in good faith! We had a bargaining session with Muste management in late September. Management did not immediately dismiss our contract proposals, and agreed to a follow-up meeting in October. We were cautiously optimistic … until they canceled that meeting on a flimsy pretext. The meeting has now been rescheduled, but we won't be surprised if they cancel on us again. Stop delaying, and take the negotiations seriously!

Stop holding salaries hostage! Muste management has frozen staff salaries at their 2015 levels, refusing to pay our regular annual cost-of-living salary increases while contract negotiations continue. At the September meeting, they told us flat out that if we want those raises, we will have to accept their “best and final offer.” Playing games with our livelihood is unfair!

Do the right thing! We believe the only reason management is meeting with us at all is because if they refuse to bargain, it will weaken their position in our unfair labor practice case. Our charges are winding their way through the rigorous National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) investigation process, and we've got help from a great legal team at the Cornell University Labor Law Clinic. All we want is justice. Yet instead of holding out an olive branch, Muste management is focused on fighting the charges. Why?

No more excuses! Muste management still refuses to discuss Jane's termination with the union or anyone else. They cite “confidentiality,” but whose confidentiality are they trying to protect? Certainly not Jane's. She wants transparency, and has offered to sign a confidentiality waiver. Management also claims they can't discuss it because of the NLRB case. But a legal case doesn't block the parties from sitting down to talk. In fact, the NLRB can require management to meet with us to discuss a possible resolution. Why wait? We've had the door open from the start.

Honor A.J.'s legacy! From the moment we formed our independent staff union, our goal was to sit down amicably with the Muste board of directors to work out mutually agreeable and fair processes and policies. Instead, management decided to take an adversarial route, bringing in an attorney who specializes in “union avoidance” to head up their team. Have they forgotten about the labor leader and nonviolent activist who inspired their mission? It's not too late to do what A.J. Muste would have done: treat us with respect, and meet with us as colleagues.

Help us hold the Muste Institute accountable to its social justice mission and values.

For more information, see our website at If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact us at musteunion [at]

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Tell the Muste Institute: Respect Workers' Rights!

A message from the AJ Muste Staff Union
September 24, 2017

“We'll meet with you, but we won't consider your proposals. We're done bargaining.”

That's not an exact quote of Muste management. But it's pretty close. They have agreed to meet with us this Tuesday, September 26 … but here's what they said:
Jane Guskin’s termination is not an issue to be discussed at the bargaining table. … [W]e are happy to meet with you and discuss the contract. As we said at the end of our last meeting, this version is our best offer. We can talk about minor adjustments, but if we cannot come to an agreement, we will have reached an impasse.
Why an impasse? There are still unresolved points to work through in the contract, and we deserve answers to our questions about Jane's unjust firing. We've put a lot of time and energy into this process because we want a contract that upholds A.J. Muste's values and makes us all proud. We're not there yet.

Help us keep the pressure on! Tell Muste management:
  • Bargain in good faith and give fair consideration to the union's contract proposals.
  • Meet with the union to resolve Jane's unjust termination.

Please act now! If you haven't yet taken action, there's still time!
  • Sign our online petition: and forward it to your friends and contacts.
  • Write your own letter, expressing your concerns about Muste management's refusal to bargain in good faith, and about Jane's firing. Address it to the Muste Institute board of directors, and email it to the union at Be sure to say in your letter if you are a grantee, donor, sponsored project, tenant, ally/partner group, current or former Muste board member, etc.
Our message:
  • Muste management's refusal to continue bargaining is an insult to the legacy of A.J. Muste, who was known for his commitment to dialogue, as well as for his activism for workers' rights.
  • Jane's termination violates the Muste Institute personnel policy, and is an attack on our independent union's struggle for workplace justice.
  • Jane's termination violates three of the “shared understandings” that Muste management has agreed to uphold and to enshrine in the collective bargaining agreement:
    • The staffing policies and practices of the Employer should reflect at all times the values of nonviolence, social justice, fairness, and equality which are at the core of AJMMI’s mission.
    • People work best when they are treated with respect and care for their human needs.
    • Investment in staff knowledge and experience serves AJMMI’s mission.

Solidarity forever! An injury to one is an injury to all!

Questions? Email us at

Monday, August 21, 2017

Three years after we formed our union, we're still trying to win a first contract. It has been a roller coaster. Stay tuned for an update in the next few days. Or if you're curious, email us for details at musteunion at gmail.