Coming Together to Change the World
Hundreds of union women, and a few union brothers, spent most of an October week in Las Vegas listening to inspiring speakers, learning from union and women’s movement leaders, and passing resolutions on the cutting edge issues for working people which will form our action programs over the next two years. Many delegates were first time attendees; some of us have been going for decades. All of us were moved, educated, and spurred to action.
Philly Board members Koren Parker, AFSCME DC88 (also PA CLUW VP) and Jeannette Geter, SEIU 668, carried our Chapter banner in the opening ceremonies. Also in attendance from our Chapter were Wynetta Ward, CWA Local 13000, Regina Fuller, APWU, and Kathy Black, AFSCME DC, retired, and Chapter Treasurer.
We heard teachers from West Virginia, Arizona and Los Angeles talk about their strikes and legislative initiatives to improve the working lives of teachers and improved educational conditions for students, campaigns that have made headlines and inspired other activists over the past two yea. A panel of Nevada young women working for immigrant rights, Planned Parenthood, and for gun control through the March for Our Lives organization spoke about what brought them to activism, how they organize and what they see for the future. We had a wonderful theatrical presentation about a dozen or more women in history from every kind of community, and a group of women leaders from Nevada’s chapters of NOW, APALA, League of Women Voters and SEIU talked about the importance of next year’s election and what’s at stake at every level of government.
Delegates considered 25 resolutions and a dozen constitutional changes, and approved most of them. They will be published on the CLUW website soon. We had a spirited debate about how we achieve just transition for workers in the energy sector whose jobs will be lost when fossil fuels are reduced, and passed a strong, amended resolution. We also passed strong language about immigrant rights, gun violence, reproductive rights, health care for all, maternal death rates, workplace violence, and campaigns for union rights for domestic and home health care workers. The resolutions our Philadelphia Chapter submitted, against military intervention in Venezuela, and renewed support for US Labor Against the War, were adopted unanimously.
Delegates were especially thrilled to hear from four women leaders of labor; Liz Shuler, Secy/Treasurer of the AFL-CIO, talked about all the ways unions connect to the needs of women and families, from paid childcare benefits (she gave a shout-out to Philly’s UFCW 1776!) to paid maternity leave (Ironworkers) to the #MeToo movement, to equal pay. She congratulated the US Women’s Soccer Team for their championship and their courage to speak out about equal pay, and for the members of Chicago’s team for showing up at their Chicago teachers’ picket line. Run for Office!, she exhorted us. Take a lesson from Nevada, which is the first state in the nation to have a majority female legislature.
Sara Nelson, International President of the American Flight Attendants Union (AFA-CWA) and a likely candidate for national AFL-CIO President, pulled no punches in her remarks about the state of our politics, our need for strong women leaders, and the real threats to workers and jobs that climate change poses. Erratic, dramatic weather patterns threaten the safety and lives of crew members and put their jobs at risk too. Linda Chavez Thompson, former AFL-CIO VP, spent most of the Convention with us, and gave a rousing address full of reminiscences, success stories and encouragement.
On our final afternoon, we heard from the iconic, revered Dolores Huertz, Co-Founder of the United Farmworkers Union (UFW) and former CLUW VP. First we watched the excellent documentary about her life that was released last year, “Dolores.” (Find it on Netflix.) Though almost 90 years old, Dolores still travels the country, supporting campaigns, calling out racism and sexism, explaining the importance of the census, public education, especially about our true history, climate change, elections, and working for peace. She spoke on all these issues, then quoted Coretta Scott King, who said, “We will never have peace in the world until feminist women take power.” The hall went wild with love and appreciation when she finished her emotional remarks.
Following Dolores’ remarks, a special presentation was made to Carol Rosenblatt, CLUW’s national Executive Director, who has just announced her retirement at the end of January, 2020, after many year steering our organization through successes and crises. Thank you, Carol! Job well done; enjoy your retirement.
We closed with music, a new, prominent feature of the Convention. The CLUW Chorus was formed in the days preceding the Convention. With little time for rehearsal, they provided chants and songs throughout our three days, with popular song lyrics altered to match our agenda, and verve and enthusiasm that brought delegates to their feet, singing and dancing throughout the hall. Our President, Elise Bryant, has quite a set of pipes herself, and leads the Washington DC Labor Chorus. She too led us in chants and song throughout the proceedings. I can’t remember a more spirited convention in all the many years I have attended.
We now have a long list of pressing issues which CLUW has taken principled positions on, and as a Chapter it is our job to advance these programs in our unions and local community. So please join us! We meet the 2nd Wednesday of each month at 22 S. 22nd St. We already have a sexual harassment project in the works, but we will also be finding ways to promote as many of these proposed changes as we can manage, and we need the help of all our sisters.
Solidarity to all,
Kathy Black, Chapter Treasurer