Unionists gather for summit on how to fight back, grow stronger amid attacks
SEATAC (Feb. 6, 2018) — Several hundred union leaders, staffers and rank-and-file members from around Washington state gathered in SeaTac on Monday for a labor summit about the challenges — and opportunities — presented by right-wing attacks on workers’ freedom to stand together. The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO hosted “Building Strong Unions: Winning in a Right-to-Work Environment” to share best practices for internal organizing as conservative Supreme Court decisions, Republican-led legislatures, and right-wing billionaire-funded think tanks seek to reduce the power that workers have when they stand together in unions.
The summit assembled national leaders and organizers — including many from states with laws that actively suppress workers’ freedom to join together — to share proven strategies for building solidarity, negotiating better contracts with fair wages and benefits, and strengthening and growing the labor movement in the face of right-wing efforts to silence workers.
“When our voices are stifled, the result is income inequality, voter suppression, fear of the other, and free reign to a new set of entrepreneurs who make the robber barons of the gilded age seem tame,” said WSLC President Jeff Johnson in his opening remarks. “When our voices are united — we win!”
Fire fighters from Spokane, electricians from Tacoma, grocery clerks from Auburn, machinists from Everett, state employees from Olympia, nurses from Seattle, farm workers from Mount Vernon, teachers from Vancouver, warehouse workers from Wenatchee, and many others assembled for the event. They were joined by representatives of community organizations that share organized labor’s values and want to raise living standards throughout the state.
Participants attended workshops to learn and share tips on organizing, messaging strategies, one-on-one conversations, and accountability to take back to other members of their organizations. All in attendance made commitments to pursue their goals — whether they already have major internal organizing campaigns under way or are just starting the planning stages — and report back on their progress.
“This is not a one-off summit but the beginning of a movement to win power for working people — we will hold ourselves accountable over the next several months and years,” Johnson said. “This is a commitment for us to build stronger unions and stronger communities.”
For more information about the summit, including how to access summit materials and handouts, email WSLC Communications Director David Groves.