By LYNNE DODSON
Special to The Stand
SEATTLE (Jan. 4, 2018) — In Washington state, there are more than 40 business schools in our colleges. But there is only one labor education program — the Washington State Labor Education and Research Center — and it’s looking for a new director. Is it you?
In 1971, when Lewis Powell wrote his memo to corporate America on how to redistribute money from everyone else up to the top, he noted that education was one of the fundamental frontiers for doing so. The subsequent proliferation of business programs and the reduction of labor education was effective for re-educating working people. We’ve seen the impact. Few know labor history. We aren’t taught to think like organizers. The tools for effective negotiation and dissent are learned on the job and in the streets rather than as part of our general education.
We need labor education. It’s effective for training, it’s effective for mobilizing, and it’s effective for disseminating information. It’s so effective, that our Washington LERC, as small as it is, gets attacks and attention from anti-union groups just as our unions do.
Several years ago, WA-LERC relocated from Evergreen State College to South Seattle College to better serve our unions. WA-LERC offers labor education on the skills that are critical to union members – organizing, bargaining, steward training, economics, social justice. It’s Emerging Leaders Conference led to the creation of WA YELL (Washington Young Emerging Labor Leaders) and has seen some of our best young leaders through its two days of training and networking. The Summer School for Union Women has been the gateway for women to rise in the labor movement for decades.
Countless activists, organizers, leaders, and rank-and-file members have benefited from programs that are developed specifically with and for particular unions. At the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, we’ve relied on WA-LERC for curriculum development in many areas, most recently with our Race and the Labor Movement training. Developing for-credit courses for union members and staff has been in the works for about a year now.
WA-LERC has had excellent directors in its history in Washington, and now that the talented Kelly Coogan-Gehr has left, a new director is needed to take the helm and lead during these most critical times. Is that you? Do you have the passion and guts to take on this role and continue to build WA-LERC into the premier Labor Education and Research Center it was born to be?
Lynne Dodson is Secretary Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and serves on the Advisory Committee for the Washington State Labor Education and Research Center.