For Tamara Robinson, life as a labor activist started early.
Born and raised in a union household, she remembers standing on a CWA picket line with her father and other telephone workers in 1989. "ON STRIKE AGAINST AT&T" the sandwich board draped around 4-year-old Tamara's shoulders read. Tamara's father, Larry Robinson, was a member of CWA Local 2300 for 30 years.
Tamara Robinson was awarded the Morton Bahr Scholarship to pursue a Master's Degree in Labor Studies at the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies of the City University of New York School of Professional Studies.
With a background like that, it's no surprise that Robinson chose a career in the labor movement and is now New York Area Director at the Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU Healthcare. And she has just won the opportunity to kick it up a notch – a $30,000 Morton Bahr Scholarship that will fund her Master's Degree in Labor Studies at the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies of the City University of New York School of Professional Studies.
"It is most fitting for me to receive this award seeing as my father was one of the reasons I went into the labor movement. His activism in his union was inspiring," Robinson said at a ceremony for scholarship recipients.
Morton Bahr is CWA's President Emeritus, who especially champions education and lifelong learning. The Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies offers higher education programs for working adults and union members, and serves as a resource center to labor, academic, and community leaders seeking a deeper understanding of labor and urban issues. The Institute also has scholarship programs dedicated to fostering diverse leadership in the labor movement and in the academic discipline of labor studies.
Her father, Robinson told the audience, was able to work with clearly established rights on the job and the respect he deserved because he had a union voice. Robinson's father worked at C&P and successor entities.
Four-year-old Tamara and her father, Larry Robinson, who was a member of CWA Local 2300 for 30 years, on the picket line.
"My father lasted longer than the name on the outside of the building and was, as a union employee, able to retire with the dignity someone of such longevity deserved," Robinson said. "My mother, an at-will employee in corporate law for thirty years, was my other motivation for doing this work."
"Watching her endure the added stress of being unable to take sick leave and having to either use vacation time or be docked for her time off when I or my sisters got sick or broke a limb in school, seeing the limited rights she had in her workplace when a supervisor decided to make her a target of his abusive language and mistreatment, and observing the lack of opportunities for professional development and advancement were ever present," Robinson continued. "Seeing these disparities between union and non-union workplaces is something I will always remember and will always motivate me to be a catalyst for change and a fierce, fierce advocate for workers and organizing."
She expressed gratitude at being selected to receive the award and "for keeping this movement alive and giving me a chance to bring my energy and creativity to a movement that has to live on."