WENATCHEE, Wash. (July 20, 2022) — As the 2022 Constitutional Convention of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO continued Wednesday in Wenatchee, delegates focused again on “Building Our Future” by organizing new union members, but also on climate policy that promotes good jobs and honoring the work of longtime labor champions.
WSLC Secretary Treasurer April Sims opened Wednesday’s session by pointing out that unions are more popular than ever. Amid a years-long pandemic and significant social upheaval more and more people are reassessing their work lives and personal happiness. New polls show that Americans have lost confidence in institutions from organized religion to Congress, but their faith in unions is staying strong as a tool to improve our jobs, pay and living standards.
“In a time when faith in our institutions is wavering, faith in the labor movement has remained strong,” Sims said. “The rising generations of working people are perhaps the most pro-union generations we’ve seen in our lifetime. Public support of unions is at a decades-long high. And more workers have filed for elections with the NLRB in the first half of this year than they did in all of 2021. Sisters, brothers, and siblings – the wind is at our backs!”
Sims shared this video (produced by WSLC Digital Organizer Sarah Tucker) that highlights some of the significant victories by Washington’s labor movement in the past year.
Also Wednesday, State Attorney General Bob Ferguson highlighted some of the significant recent victories his office has achieved in holding corporations accountable to their workers. But he gave much of the credit to the hard-working attorneys and staff at the AG’s office, and he noted one difference since the last time he addressed the WSLC Convention.
“The attorneys in our office have organized and are now right here with you for the first time in history,” Ferguson said. “My chief of staff and I are communicating to other attorneys general around the country, ‘You can do this. You can support this. And it’s good for your organization and the people you represent’.”
King County Executive Dow Constantine addressed WSLC delegates on Wednesday and described his efforts in the state’s most populous county to grow good family-wage jobs while protecting the interests of working families.
Lara Skinner, Executive Director of the Worker Institute at Cornell, leads the institute’s Labor Leading on Climate Initiative. On Wednesday, she delivered a presentation about how that initiative is working to advance knowledge, policies, and practices to enhance the role of labor and working people in addressing the environmental and climate crises.
After Skinner’s presentation, delegates heard from a “Making Our Future” panel of local labor leaders offering a deeper look into some of our work in Washington to grow jobs, secure the supply chain, and developing worker-centered responses to climate change. The panel included Ted Cummings of USW 338, Jon Holden of IAM District Lodge 751, Todd Mitchell of Heat & Frost Insulators Local 7, and Brenda Wiest of Teamsters Local 117.
Also on Wednesday at the WSLC Convention, a number of awards were presented for distinguished union and public service:
► Patty Rose, Secretary-Treasurer of the Pierce County Central Labor Council who is retiring from that position, was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for her 48 years as a leader in the Pierce County labor movement.
“It’s been a wonderful experience,” Rose said. “I just celebrated 20 years at the Labor Council… but we don’t do it alone. We do it will all the members of our supportive family.”
► The WSLC Mother Jones Award has been recognized for decades as the state labor movement’s award that recognizes our own members in their struggle for dignity and respect for all working men and women in our state. Traditionally, two awards are given, one to an individual and one to an organization. Candidates for the award will best exemplify the tradition of Mary “Mother” Jones’ immortal statement, “Mourn for the dead, but fight like hell for the living!”
The organizational Mother Jones Award went to the workers at Industrial Container Services (ICS) who fought long and hard to join together in a union with Teamsters Local 117.
The individual Mother Jones Award went to Connie Kelliher, who is retiring after decades of service as Communications Director for IAM District 751.
► Rep. Mike Sells (D-Everett), a former teacher and leader in his union, served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Snohomish County Labor Council from 1976 to 2014. He has been a quiet leader on labor issues in Olympia since his election to Washington’s House of Representatives in 2004. With his retirement from the Legislature this year, Sells was presented two awards at Wednesday night’s convention banquet: the President’s Award from WSLC President Larry Brown and an award from the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters.
► Former WSLC staffer Caitlyn Jekel, who served at Gov. Inslee’s Labor Policy Liaison and is now Government Affairs Director for the state Employment Security Department, received the Bruce Brennan Award for outstanding advocacy for apprenticeship.
► The Power to the People organizational award for outstanding political action was presented to the International Association of Machinists District Council 751. And for the individual Power to the People award, the surprise recipient was a longtime member and former staffer for IAM District 751, retiring WSLC President Larry Brown.
► TVW coverage of Wednesday’s morning plenary session of the WSLC 2022 Convention was live-streamed on the WSLC’s social media pages. Here is Wednesday’s session:
April Sims @ 18:30
Bob Ferguson @ 39:50
Power to the People awards @ 56:58
Lara Skinner (Climate and Jobs) @1:09:07
Manufacturing Jobs and Climate Action panel @ 1:40:27
Dow Constantine @ 2:21:40
Thursday’s session — which includes debate and action on resolutions, endorsements, and other convention business conducted by delegates — will NOT be live-streamed or recorded by TVW. The WSLC will be posting the results of Thursday’s action soon at the WSLC website.
Here is the WSLC 2022 Convention Photo: