The Stand

Convention Day 1: Organizing and solidarity

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WENATCHEE, Wash. (July 19, 2022) — Today, we are experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help workers join together into unions.

That was the message — and challenge — delivered by multiple distinguished speakers at Tuesday’s opening session of the 2022 Constitutional Convention of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. The WSLC, the state’s largest union organization with more than 600 affiliated labor organizations and some 550,000 rank-and-file members, is holding its annual convention this week in Wenatchee.

“I’ve been doing this for 40 years… there has never been a greater time to organize than today!” said Tuesday’s keynote speaker D. Taylor, International President of the 300,000-member UNITE HERE union. “The public is behind us, you’ve got a pro-worker (Biden) administration, and workers are pissed off. That’s a perfect storm to allow us to restore the American dream to millions of folks.”

Although Washington has the third highest union density of any state in the nation, he challenged the union leaders and members in attendance to take risks by engaging in more and bigger organizing drives. He said we need to do more bottom-up organizing — and to share staff resources between unions — to train more effective organizers and researchers, even if it means losing some of those campaigns.

“We’ve got to figure out how to redouble our efforts, because there’s never been an opportunity like this, folks,” Taylor said. “I think the goal here in Washington, and you have all the ingredients, really should be to become the most unionized state in the United States. There’s no reason that can’t happen.”

WSLC President Larry Brown, who is not seeking re-election to his position, opened what will be his final convention with a call for union solidarity.

“The cornerstone of our strength as workers and unions is solidarity,” Brown said. “It is only when union members stick together in solidarity that workers make gains in contract language, providing for increases in wages, hours and working conditions. In my time, I have seen the power of solidarity between unions when we all join in for the fight, on the picket line, on the streets, in the marble halls of state and local government.”

After reviewing some of the accomplishments of the WSLC and Washington’s labor movement during his term as WSLC President, and some of the challenges ahead, Brown explained why the WSLC focuses on social and equity issues.

While the foundation of the council’s work is building solidarity and mutual support for affiliated unions’ efforts to improve wages and working conditions, delegates at these conventions have approved resolutions ordering the WSLC to “engage in the work to combat the evil impacts of race, gender and sexual orientation discrimination,” Brown said.

“We fight these exclusionary behaviors and practices because they are just plain wrong,” he said. “If in this labor movement we dare to call each other brothers and sisters or sibling, we are family. And we don’t exclude family… Exclusionary conditions are corrosive conditions for our nation and for our unions.”

Also on Tuesday at the WSLC Convention:

►Delegates heard from two panels of union leaders and rank-and-file activists about organizing campaigns in Washington state.

The first panel focused on statewide efforts to organize workers across industries, utilizing legislative strategies to build power for union members while taking on some of the largest employers and social issues facing working people today. It featured Yolanda King-Lowe of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW; Edgar Franks of Familias Unidas por la Justicia; Anna-Marie Magdalena of AFT Washington; and Mike Yestramski, WFSE Council 28.

 

The second organizing panel focused on local and regional organizing that is deeply embedded within community. It featured Angie Lara of Fair Work Center (Yakima); Ahmed Mahamud of the Drivers Union; Rigoberto Valdez, Jr. of the MLK Labor Presidents’ Organizing Initiative; and Stefan Moritz of UNITE HERE Local 8, who shared the video above about his union’s campaign to organize workers who make Homegrown sandwiches.

► Tina Morrison, Secretary Treasurer of the Spokane Regional Labor Council and longtime member of Musicians Local 105, received the Elsie Schrader Award from the WSLC Women’s Committee for activism on behalf of women within the labor movement.

► TVW coverage of Tuesday’s morning plenary session of the WSLC 2022 Convention was live-streamed on the WSLC’s social media pages. Here is Tuesday’s session: Larry Brown’s opening speech @ 56:10; D. Taylor’s keynote address @ 1:24:18; Tina Morrison receives the Elsie Schrader award @ 2:02:10; Statewide Labor Campaigns panel @ 2:03:55; and the Local Organizing Campaigns panel @ 2:43:24.

 

Wednesday’s session will be live-streamed again starting at 9 a.m. on the WSLC’s Facebook page.

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