What's New at Coalition of Labor Union Women
Liz Shuler at the CLUW Convention
CLUW’s 20th Biennial Convention featured stimulating, energizing keynote speakers who shared what the convention theme “Coming Together to Change the World” meant to them.
On October 17th Liz Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO informed the delegates that the labor movement is the largest movement (7 million) of working women in the country. She expressed that, “This is a moment in this country, in our movement where working people, especially women are taking risks, they are rising up collectively now more than ever before. Every movement that I see out there .. there are women on the front lines.” As far as the #MeToo movement, she emphasized that…. “We have been fighting sexual harassment for decades. We’ve been using our collective bargaining agreements and our contracts to fight against it.…. We are a voice for all working women…Fighting sexual harassment is fundamental for the labor movement, that goes for the work place but also within the labor movement itself .“ She ended by encouraging union women to run for office.
Later that day Linda Chavez-Thompson, who broke barriers by being the first person of color to hold one of the 3 highest offices of the AFL-CIO, shared that from humble beginnings on a cotton farm making 30 cents an hour as a child, she started her career in the labor movement when she was hired as a secretary by a Laborers’ Local. After years of activism with AFSCME in Texas she became the first Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO. She related her experience as a candidate for Lt. Governor of Texas, concluding that politics cannot do without the Labor Movement and the Labor Movement cannot do without politics.
The following day Sara Nelson, International President AFA-CWA shared her first days as a flight attendant when she had to fight for her pay and learned first hand the importance of the union. She put forth that, "The bosses have used sexism, racism, homophobia, and any difference to try to divide us. But who has been rising up? It has been women and women led professions. It has been teachers, hotel workers, grocery workers…The ruling class puts rules in place, civility, decorum to hold us back. They give us just enough to make us think we have something real to lose. If we are not willing to break those rules they will continue to take until there is nothing left….So I want you to remember .. when men say women are too emotional to lead, you remember that your emotion is your superpower."
The convention ended with one of labor’s heroines, Dolores Huerta, Co-Founder, United Farm Workers, and Founder and President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation. The delegates viewed the documentary “Dolores” and were looking forward to seeing and hearing her in person. She told them that she was at the founding convention of CLUW. She discussed many of the battles of today including that when the right wing attacks women, LGBTQ and people of color on cultural issues it is way to avoid talking about the real issues - economics and income inequality. She spoke about the importance of labor and without labor there is no middle class or a democracy. She affirmed that women must have the right to an abortion and that we should not be afraid to have those conversations. And that women must run for office. She stressed the importance of everyone being counted in the Census and that for each person counted, $2000 is available to better communities. Ending with a rousing Sí Se Puede!
Liz Shuler and Elise Bryant
Dolores Huerta with LA CLUW members Maggie Cook and Jerilyn Stapleton on scooters
Linda Chavez-Thompson (center) and Elise Bryant at end with CLUW members
Sara Nelson with CLUW/AFSCME sisters
Panelists speak on 'Making HERstory: Sisters of the Next Generation' panel. L-R: Nyssa Silva, Associate Director of High School Organizing for March for Our Lives, Las Vegas, NV; Katy Martinez, High School Student and Daughter of Culinary Union Members with Temporary Protective Status; Cassandra Charles, Field Organizing Specialist for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. Panel moderator Sabrina Larsen, REC Coordinator for Salt Lake Area APWU not shown.
A highlight of the 2019 CLUW Convention were the three diverse and enlightening panels held over the three days of Convention plenary sessions. Kicking off the panels was ‘Making HERstory: Sisters of the Next Generation’ which consisted of highly impressive young activists fighting for change in the areas of reproductive rights, immigration, and gun safety. All of the panelists were either in high school or college and were able to teach the audience important lessons about finding your voice, the power of mentoring, and believing in your own ability even in the face of other’s doubt. Attendee and Co-chair of CLUW’s Young Workers Caucus, Teresa-Marie Oller (APWU), found the panel to be ‘absolutely amazing’ and noted it was much needed to see women of all ages doing work which aligns with CLUW’s mission.
The next day another group of activists, this time teachers from across the county, joined together on the inspiring ‘Teacher Power Rising’ panel. The panelists, including AFT and NEA union members and leaders from Western Virginia, Los Angeles, and Arizona, described what could be learned from the successes and hardships of recent teacher actions in their respective areas. Panelist Arlene Inouye, a speech therapist and Secretary Bargaining Chair for UTLA (United Teachers Los Angeles), spoke on how shifting the union from a ‘service union to an organizing union’ and bringing ‘common-good demands’ which benefit parents and students, not just teachers, to the bargaining table was crucial in getting the whole community involved in their fight and ultimate victory. Attendee Kathy Black (AFSCME) noted that the ‘Teachers' panel was informative, inspiring, very timely.’
Another timely panel, held on the last day of the convention, focused on building community and labor alliances to create stronger and more powerful networks leading into the 2020 election. Each of the panelists do vital organizing work in Nevada, either through their union or through groups like the National Organization for Women (NOW) or League of Women Voters, which has helped lead Nevada to becoming the first state to achieve a female majority state legislature. Panelist Gloria Caoile, Founding Member of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), spoke on how ‘there is something we all can contribute that will make life better for all of us and our children’ and ultimately each of us individually putting in what we can is really what creates collective power.
Cheryl Teare (far left), AFT Special Assistant to the President, moderates 'Teacher Power Rising' panel. Panelists include (L-R): Arlene Inouye, Secretary and Bargaining Chair of UTLA and Speech Therapist; Pamela Huff, AFT Arizona Member; Brittany Dolly and Amber Brown, Members of AFT-Kanawha Local 444 West Virginia.
In Our Hands We Hold the Power' panel. (L-R) Moderator Nakisha M. Lewis, Civil and Human Rights Director for AFL-CIO; Gloria Caoile, APALA Founding Member; Sandra Cosgrove, President of the League of Women Voters, Nevada; Jeri Burton President Nevada National Organization for Women.