At WSLC convention, labor and elected leaders outline visions for empowering working people
(July 23, 2021) — A year and a half in to the COVID-19 pandemic, Thursday’s second day of the 2021 Convention of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO was filled with inspiring labor leaders and elected officials focusing on the opportunities before us. Speaker after speaker reminded the hundreds of convention delegates gathered via Zoom that Washington’s working people have persevered and made tremendous gains through their unity and solidarity.
And they urged that we keep that momentum going because it’s “Our Time Now.”
“For many of us, the power of this movement has been an anchor in the unpredictable seas of the past year and a half,” said Secretary Treasurer April Sims who opened Thursday’s session. “It’s easy to despair when we are on our own, but the collective strength of this movement has held us, or families and our communities as we navigated our way through these unprecedented times.”
(Watch Sims’ full address here starting at 11:40.)
Sims welcomed Thursday’s keynote speaker, Vonda McDaniel, President of the Central Labor Council of Nashville and Middle Tennessee. She also serves as a Vice President to the national AFL-CIO Executive Council.
“As the theme of your convention suggests, this is Our Time Now,” McDaniel said. “We can build a future based on democracy, political democracy, democracy at work. Our time now to build big structural change that empowers working people — Black and brown, straight and gay, all working people. All of us are uniquely positioned to do it. Together.”
(Watch McDaniels’ full address here starting at 26:20.)
Delegates heard messages from U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (here at 37:54), U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer (here at 41:55), and King County Executive Dow Constantine (here at 46:29), each discussing what they are working on to promote economic justice and fight for working families.
Also Thursday, a panel of experts described Washington state’s apprenticeship programs and how they provide not only great job opportunities, but also a glide path to the middle class. The panel featured Chris McLain of Ironworkers Local 86, Le’Nae Jackson of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, Kent Stanford of UFCW Local 367, Shana Peschek of the Machinists Institute, and Jeremy Wood of the Bremerton Firefighters (IAFF Local 437).
(Watch the panel here starting at 50:07.)
The WSLC 2021 Convention continues Friday morning at 9 a.m. Unlike previous plenary sessions, it will not be broadcast on Facebook Live and is restricted to registered and credentialed delegates. (If you are a delegates, make sure you are registered.) The body will consider resolutions that are a key part not just of the WSLC Convention, but of the organization itself. It is through the debate and passage of these resolutions that WSLC positions and policies are established. (See the resolutions approved in 2020 for examples.)
Each year at convention, the WSLC also presents awards recognizing the accomplishments of specific union organizations and individual union members. They are the Bruce Brennan Award for furthering the cause of apprenticeship, education and training; the Elsie Schrader Award for the advancement of women in leadership roles and/or for activism on behalf of women within the labor movement; and the Mother Jones award to the individual and organization that best exemplify the tradition of Mary “Mother” Jones’ immortal statement, “Mourn for the dead, but fight like hell for the living!” The WSLC’s top executive officer will also present President’s Awards.