Meet Danny Ferreyra
By Vickie Moller, student, Long Island Center-Hauppauge Unit and 2011-2012 student representative, Student Affairs Committee
December 11, 2012
Danny Ferreyra is a SUNY Empire State College student at the Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies and the Student Affairs Committee 2011-12 student representative for his center.
Three years ago, Ferreyra enrolled in Empire State College in order to earn the associate degree he was required to secure as an apprentice in Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. During a recent interview, Ferreyra explained that, since that time, his life vision has increased far beyond the limits of his personal experience.
“My studies have changed the way I view things. I have a more collective view and no longer see everything as solely affecting me,” he explains.
Delighted that much of the curriculum at his center focuses on ordinary people who work for a living and challenges the traditional teachings of corporate institutions, Ferreyra said that through his study of labor and the economy taught by professor Moshe Adler, he has gained insight into the inequitable nature of some market economies, especially as they relate to the disadvantaged. This awareness, he explained, has made him a much more discerning and critical thinker.
His study of the history of labor has given Ferreyra an understanding of the strategic role that labor plays in driving the nation and a keen awareness of the plight of workers who, for centuries, have been exploited and taken for granted.
“It made me realize that the fruits we have today weren't always ours to enjoy and that people fought long and hard, sometimes to the death, for things that we take for granted, like lunch breaks,” Ferreyra said.
The strong emphasis that his history classes put on the grassroots movement of workers—how they organize, formulate strategies and engage in civil battles—served as the motivation for Ferreyra to become involved in political activism.
”I never thought I would be involved in rallies—my involvement evolved through the educational process. It opened my eyes to the real world and gave me the desire to take control of my life,” Ferreyra said.
As a direct result of his classroom discussions, in early April of last year Ferreyra participated in the “We Are One” rally, standing in solidarity with the workers of Madison, Wis., whose bargaining rights were being threatened by Governor Scott Walker. Later, on Oct. 15, 2011, Ferreyra participated in his first Occupy Wall Street rally, "Occupy Times Square." Before the close of the year, Ferreyra had attended four other rallies.
Ferreyra also has partnered with several of his fellow students to create a Student-Alumni Association in efforts to inform and motivate others to action. Their activities include giving oral presentations and showing documentaries in classes at the college; and in March of this year, they hosted a panel discussion at Pace University for the Left Forum, a group of intellectuals and organizers working for a stronger Left and a more just society.
Additionally, on April 2, Ferreyra and two other students hosted a panel discussion at their center examining OWS that included guests Cedar Arenas, one of the original organizers; Sue Waters, a business-data analyst at a multinational bank; Shaba Om, a former Black Panther, now a union member shop steward; and Joel Rainey, an Empire State College mentor at Van Arsdale, who gave a brief history lesson regarding the tactic of occupation as a means of protest dating back to the feudal era.
“What I am learning at my center is so empowering. I don’t feel like I can be taken advantage of as easily,” Ferreyra said.
Beyond the required associate degree that first brought Ferreyra to SUNY Empire State College, his vision and passion have led him to take 12 credits per semester toward a Bachelor of Arts in Labor Studies, while working full time. He hopes to graduate next year and is considering continuing for a master’s degree.
“Whatever I am going to do, I am certain that it will have something to do with empowering people; and one way or another, it will involve politics,” he said. “Do I want to run for political office?—I’d like to think not, but as the political environment changes, it is always possible. I’ll never say ‘never’.”