Steven Greenhouse

Spring 2017 Resident Fellow

Former labor correspondent for The New York Times

Seminar Information | "The Challenges Facing America’s Workers and Labor Unions." Learn more & RSVP

Office Hours | Wednesdays*, 2-5pm. Sign up here.
* In Week 3, Greenhouse will hold office hours on Friday, 4/14 instead of Wednesday. 

Steven Greenhouse worked as a reporter at the New York Times for 31 years, spending his last 19 years there as labor and workplace correspondent. Since leaving the Times in December 2014, he has been writing a book for Knopf about the past, present and future of American workers and labor unions. He has also been freelancing for the Times, the Guardian, the Atlantic and various other publications.

Mr. Greenhouse joined the Times in September 1983, covering the steel industry, and then spent two-and-a-half years in Chicago as Midwest economics correspondent. From 1987 through early 1992, he was based in Paris as European economics correspondent, covering, among other things, the European Union and the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. He next served in the Washington bureau for four years, covering economic policy and then the State Department. In late 1995, he moved to New York, to begin covering labor.

As workplace correspondent, he covered labor’s role in the 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 elections. He covered Scott Walker’s push to hobble Wisconsin’s public-sector unions and exposed a huge corruption scandal at New York’s largest municipal union. He has written about innovative labor actions like the Fight for 15 and working conditions and wage violations at Walmart and other companies.  He has covered many unionization drives and strikes, including the U.P.S. strike, Chicago teachers strike and New York transit strike. He has written about the harsh conditions facing migrant farm workers across the U.S., and investigated apparel industry disasters in Bangladesh.

Mr. Greenhouse is author of “The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker” (Knopf 2008), which won the Sidney Hillman Prize for a nonfiction book that advanced social justice. He has won numerous journalism prizes. In 2015-16, he was a visiting researcher at the Russell Sage Foundation.

He has appeared on “The News Hour,” “NBC Evening News” along with many radio shows, including “Morning Edition,” “All Things Considered,” “Fresh Air,” “Diane Rehm,” and “The Brian Lehrer Show.”

A native of Massapequa, N.Y., he majored in government and letters at Wesleyan University (1973) and obtained a masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1975. He graduated from the New York University School of Law in 1982.

He and his wife, Miriam Reinharth (who works for the Community Service Society) live in New York City. They have a daughter, Emily, who works for the New Yorker Magazine, and a son, Jeremy, who works for the Chicago Cubs.

Greenhouse's Ambassadors

Steve's answers to our Proust Questionnaire

What is your favorite virtue? Sensitivity to others.

What is your chief characteristic? Fair-mindedness. 

What do you appreciate the most in your friends? Being considerate and good listeners, and warmth.

What is your main fault? I’m pretty much a slob, especially when it comes to papers. Sometimes I tell my wife, if I’m ever sent to hell, it’s because I waste way too much paper. 

What is your favorite occupation? I love writing, I love journalism. That’s why I do it. An occupation I admire and wish I were talented enough to do is to be an orchestra conductor. It must be so exciting to be coordinating and overseeing all of this amazing beauty.

What is your idea of happiness? One could answer that in fifty different ways. I could say, a world of peace where we’re not battling with North Korea, Afghanistan and Syria, and we’d have peace between the Palestinians and Israelis. Or seeing something very funny. Writing a chapter in my book that makes me feel “that’s good.” To hold a class and give a good lecture, connect with some students. Or you say something that you feel has turned a lightbulb on in someone or that’s created an epiphany. 

What is your idea of misery? Misery is, to use a big word, immiseration. You know, huge poverty. I personally live a pretty good life, but my idea of misery is extreme poverty. You know, we live in a world with great wealth and it’s unfortunate and unfair that so many people are usually poor.   

Where would you like to live? I love NY, Chicago, Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam. 

What is your favorite flower? I love a lot of flowers, but lilies. 

Who are your favorite authors? George Orwell. He’s not the greatest writer or word-smith on earth, he’s not a John Updike. But I identify with him, I love his search for truth and justice. He’s probably influenced me more than any other writer. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I love reading his books, but it’s a very different thing. 

Who are your favorite heroes or heroines in fiction? I've always loved Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice because she was so much smarter and wittier and more sensitive and more astute about what's going on than everyone else.  And Jane Austen & Elizabeth Bennet were so far ahead of their time.

Who are your heroes or heroines in real life? George Orwell is a hero. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a real hero. I’m writing a chapter about Frances Perkins, the first female in the Cabinet, the Labor Secretary under Roosevelt. She was an amazing woman, far too little attention is paid to her. Walter Reuther, the UAW leader was a great visionary labor leader who did a whole lot to build the middle class of the U.S. Ida B. Wells, the great African-American journalist was an amazingly courageous woman who did a whole lot to bring lynching to the attention of the U.S. There are a lot of amazing people out there. 

What is your favorite food & drink? A good, strong Irish breakfast tea, Barry’s Tea. I love ice cream and the perfect orange. I was a student in France in 1970 and they sold oranges from Morocco that were unbelievably good. I’ve never had oranges as good again in my life. And I love goat cheese.  

What you hate the most? Bullies. People who are very pompous and very full of themselves. And huge unfairness. But I really get my back up when I see someone being a bully or lording something over other folks.

What is a natural talent you’d like to have? A great singer. 

What is your favorite motto? Probably Rabbi Hillel's version of the Golden Rule: “what is hateful to yourself, do not do to your fellow man. … The rest is just commentary.” I also love a quote from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s second inaugural address, which is, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

What is one thing that you think people would be surprised to learn about you? I’m from the same hometown as Alec Baldwin and Jerry Seinfeld - Massapequa, Long Island. And the biggest thrill for in my 31 years at The New York Times and my 40 years as a journalist was covering the Velvet Revolution in Prague. It was incredible seeing people rise up to free themselves, that was amazing. 

What is one thing that you’ve done that has surprised you? As a kid I always dreamed of becoming a reporter in Paris, and I became a reporter for Paris for The New York Times. That was a huge thrill. I was in the Chicago bureau of The New York Times in 1987, I got a call from an editor who said, “Would you be interested in going to the Paris bureau?” That was amazing.