Celebrating our diverse labor leadershipAt ‘We Out Here!’ event, Washington’s AFL-CIO constituency groups and unions offer a reminder: Joy and justice go hand in hand as we build power for all working people.
(Mar. 1, 2023) — Our labor movement brings working people together across industries and identities to seek out joy and justice united with one another. It takes all of us to build power for workers; anything that divides our solidarity is a threat to our movement, and to working people’s wellbeing.
This is the spirit that guides the work of the WSLC Racial & Gender Justice Department, under the direction of Kasi Marita Perreira. Our strength as a movement is in our solidarity, and we know that racism, sexism, and homophobia are used to pit working people against one another, an age-old divide-and-conquer strategy. As enthusiasm for organized labor skyrockets among new, increasingly diverse generations, building an anti-racist labor movement is critical for ensuring working people see their needs reflected in organized labor.
Through the WSLC Racial & Gender Justice Department and the WSLC’s Race & Labor program, we support our affiliates fighting racism as a movement-building strategy.
It’s not easy work. And often we don’t celebrate what we’ve accomplished as we push forward. But joy and justice must come hand in hand for our movement to be powerful and resilient. And the diverse leaders who move us forward deserve to be celebrated.
This was the inspiration behind We Out Here! A Celebration of Diverse Leadership, a gathering of union family this past weekend at the Teamsters Joint Council 28 hall in Tukwila. Presented by the WSLC Racial Justice & Diversity Committees, along with local chapters of AFL-CIO constituency groups – A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) – We Out Here! brought together more than 200 union members on Saturday night to honor and celebrate in the spirit of cross-racial solidarity during Black History Month.
After comments from WSLC President April Sims and Secretary Treasurer Cherika Carter, and WSLC Racial Justice Committee Chair John Scearcy of Teamsters 117 and Constituency Group leaders, attendees were treated to an energy-filled performance by the Omega Delta Phi Stroll Team (featuring Union Summer Alum Jonny Gonzalez).
April Sims, Sean Bagsby, and Cherika Carter
The short program also included a moment of pause to give roses to both long-term elected union leaders of color in our movement, and rising leaders who introduced themselves to our labor community. Finally, a surprise award, “The Lift Every Voice” award was presented to IBEW 46 Business Manager Sean Bagsby.
“Bagsby exemplifies union leadership and what it looks like to fight for all workers’ voices to be heard,” said WSLC President April Sims. “His authentic, steady leadership is invaluable for Washington’s labor movement.”
The award is the first given by the WSLC Racial Justice and Diversity committees, in recognition that the people closest to the problem are also closest to the solution and that racial and economic justice are one and the same.
“We don’t do this for accolades,” said Bagsby as he accepted his award and shared his thanks. “It’s about seeing all the young people, seeing all shades of humanity come together. It doesn’t matter what craft you’re a part of, it’s about all of us. And it will take all of us to make a difference.”
Indira Trejo, Diana Perez, and Connie Rodriguez representing LCLAA
We Out Here! also provided a platform for AFL-CIO constituency groups of color, with opportunities for attendees to connect with current members and leaders and get involved in local chapters. These constituency groups are a home for union members of color, and a space for all union members to work together towards progress.
Eunice How of APALA Seattle and Gabriel Prawl of APRI Seattle
“People of color are critical leaders in transforming the labor movement. We are often invisibilized and it is so important we celebrate us,” said Eunice How, APALA Seattle President. “We are in a class and race war and in intense fights for justice in our workplaces, in the community, and the ballot box. It was so nice to celebrate in a joyful setting. We are refreshed and ready to continue the battle for democracy! Party on!”
Embodying the collaborative spirit that thrives in Washington’s labor movement, local unions and labor organizations from across industries rallied together to support this event. Tremendous gratitude and appreciation for all sponsors, volunteers and supporters, including:
While the party may be over, the energy lives on.
“This was a celebration of Black and brown leadership, staff, and rank-and-file celebrating our existence being ‘Out Here,’ but it was also a reminder that ‘We’re In Here’ within the labor movement,” said Kevin Allen, CBTU Puget Sound Vice President and WFSE 843 member. “Recognition is so important for ourselves and the labor movement as a whole. It can be lonely doing this work at times, but this was a time of rejuvenation and motivation.”
Short URL: https://www.thestand.org/?p=114809
Nathe Lawver elected to succeed Patty Rose as PCCLC leader
TACOMA (Feb. 10, 2023) — Nathe Lawver was elected Wednesday as Secretary-Treasurer of the Pierce County Central Labor Council (PCCLC), AFL-CIO, a position held for the past 20 years by longtime labor and community leader Patty Rose who is retiring next month. The PCCLC represents the interests of 96 affiliated unions with some 45,000 rank-and-file members in Pierce County.
Lawver has been an advocate for Pierce County’s working families for more than 15 years, having served as Director-level staff for two local unions in both the private retail sector and construction sectors, and securing better wages and working conditions through legislative processes. He also previously served as PCCLC’s Political Director. Last year, he was elected by his peers to be Executive Secretary of the Pierce County Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO.
“With the popularity of unions at a historic high, and with many active organizing campaigns happening right now, I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity to serve the hardworking people of Pierce County,” Lawver said. “By joining together, we can continue to improve wages, benefits and working conditions so we can all prosper and live the American dream. Because we all do better when we all do better.”
Rose praised the PCCLC affiliates’ choice of Lawver to lead the council.
“I’m thrilled that Nathe will succeed me as Secretary Treasurer of the Pierce County Central Labor Council,” Rose said. “He will carry on and expand the great work of our labor council. I can retire knowing the PCCLC will thrive under the direction of Nathe and our President Vance Lelli.”
(Stay tuned for an announcement soon about Rose’s retirement celebration.)
Lawver and his wife Alicia, both graduates of Pacific Lutheran University, chose Tacoma as their place to live in 2001. They have raised three children there, along with assorted pets that include flocks of chickens and, currently, three dogs and a cat. He enjoys reading history, cooking and travel.
Lawver serves as Vice Chair of the board of directors for United Way of Pierce County, and on the board of the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation.
Short URL: https://www.thestand.org/?p=114339
Southwest Washington Labor Awards Feb. 25 in Vancouver
The following is from the Southwest Washington and the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Central Labor Councils:
VANCOUVER, Wash. (Jan. 18, 2023) — We all know that 2022 was an amazing year for working people in Southwest Washington. We saw headlines about strikes, new organizing, and workers from across the region standing up and standing together to fight for fair treatment in their workplaces.
Behind each of those headlines are people in their community who took risks and volunteered their time and energy to make those stories happen. Far too often those people don’t get recognized for their efforts – but the Southwest Washington Central Labor Council and Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Central Labor Council won’t let that happen.
That’s why these CLCs are honored to present the 2nd Annual Southwest Washington Labor Awards on Saturday, Feb. 25 at the Vancouver Hilton (our UNION hotel!) They want to honor the people in their community who dedicated themselves to fighting for working people in the past year. Please fill out this form to nominate the people you feel deserve to be recognized as:
Short URL: https://www.thestand.org/?p=113706
UW Libraries, Press staff to strike on Jan. 25After 15 months of bargaining with the university, they’ll begin strike unless they reach a deal
The following is from SEIU 925:
SEATTLE (Jan. 13, 2023) — Union staff at the University of Washington Libraries and Press have declared their intention to strike beginning Wednesday, Jan. 25 if a full contract agreement with the UW administration is not reached. Members of the bargaining team made the announcement during the public comment period at the UW’s Board of Regents’ quarterly meeting on Thursday.
“Fifteen months without a contract is too long,” said Allee Monheim, a public service librarian who addressed the board. “We’ve been waiting on some proposals for over six months, and we’re tired of dragging this out. We will go on strike if we don’t reach a tentative agreement before the 25th.”
Employees of the University of Washington Libraries and Press formed a union in June 2021 and have been negotiating with the university for a first contract ever since. They engaged in a one-day strike in October 2022 to show frustration at how long the university has been dragging out negotiations. In November, they authorized their union bargaining team to call an open-ended strike if negotiations with the university break down.
Many librarians haven’t seen a wage increase since before the pandemic and feel they have reached a breaking point.
“When librarians are willing to walk off the job, you know something’s really wrong,” said Tricia Schroeder, President of SEIU 925, the union UW Libraries and Press staff have joined. “But they’re willing to do it for a living wage, to be able to retain colleagues and prevent staff shortages, and to have the resources to better serve the UW educational community.”
The last scheduled day of bargaining is Tuesday, Jan. 24.
SEIU 925 unites 17,000 people in Washington who work in education from early learning through university, as well as local government and nonprofits.
AFT Washington plans human rights event Dec. 10 via Zoom
From The Stand: https://www.thestand.org/2022/12/aft-washington-plans-human-rights-event-via-zoom-on-dec-10/
SEATTLE — Join AFT Washington’s Human Rights Committee on Human Rights Day, Saturday, Dec. 10 for “The Struggle to Protect Reproductive Rights and Organizing in The Current Environment!” This conversation about how to protect reproductive rights, workers’ rights, and the right to education will be held via Zoom from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Register here.
As members of AFT Washington’s Human and Civil Rights Committee watched decisions of the Supreme Court come down, the importance of creating space to both acknowledge and strategize how we fight back to defend and expand our human rights became clear.
International Human Rights Day is Dec. 10 and provides the opportunity to come together in solidarity. Reproductive rights, workers’ rights, and the right to education, enshrined in the International Declaration of Human Rights, are not guaranteed and some interests are actively seeking to take them away from us.
Join AFT Washington for a discussion and inspiration to action around ways to reaffirm and protect our rights, and the importance of continuing the fight even in an unwelcoming legal and political climate. Speakers will include:
Mary Le Nguyen, who is the first Executive Director of color in Washington Community Action Network’s (Washington CAN) 40-year history. Her lineage includes her grandfather who fought under Ho Chi Minh during the French occupation where his resistance resulted in the family home being burned down and his imprisonment. Mary has organized within the labor and reproductive justice movements for over 10 years and waited tables for nearly 20. Mary has a MA of Arts in Policy Studies from the University of Washington.
Rigoberto Valdez, Jr. is currently on loan to MLK Labor, to coordinate the Presidents’ Organizing Initiative (a partnership of National Unions, the AFL-CIO and local labor movements to pilot new external organizing strategies). He is a member of UFCW 3000. For more than 27 years, Rigo has dedicated his life and career to organizing workers. Currently, Rigo is the President of the United Latinos of the UFCW, is a founding member and is on the Executive Board of OUTreach (UFCW LGBTQ+ Caucus), a member of the Executive Board of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles (CHIRLA), serves on the National Executive Board of LCLAA (Labor Council for Latin American Advancement), and is a Commissioner on the Los Angeles County, Immigrant Protection and Advancement Taskforce.
Xochilt Lopez, who emigrated from Jalisco, Mexico in 2009, looking for a better life. Xochilt has three children. While working at a packing house in Yakima, Xochilt decided to improve her English and get a degree so that she could have a career helping the community. She received her Associate degree from Yakima Valley Community College, and is currently working on her bachelor’s degree. While at YVCC, Xochilt started a student club, Connection Bridge, to support students navigating the college. She also began working as an organizer with the Alliance for a Just Society and the Communities For Our Colleges coalition. She does outreach to potential students, current students, and parents to enlist them in the fight for free community college and the support it takes for everyone seeking degrees to complete them.
All are invited to visit the AFT Washington site to register for this Dec. 10 event: https://leadernet.aft.org/webform/human-rights-day-2022-registration
Tell Starbucks: Stop union-busting closures
From the Stand: https://www.thestand.org/2022/11/tell-starbucks-stop-union-busting-closures/
SEATTLE (Nov. 29, 2022) — On Monday, Nov. 21, Starbucks announced it would close another store in Seattle. Again, it just happens to be one of the unionized locations, Broadway & Denny, which was the first store in the city to form a union with Starbucks Workers United in a unanimous vote back on March 22.
Rather than negotiate a first contract in good faith with its unionized workers, Starbucks continues to bust the unions by retaliating against union supporters and closing unionized stores. This is illegal, but Starbucks continues to do it — despite complaints from federal authorities and members of Congress — because U.S. labor laws and the penalties for breaking them are so weak that the company has deliberately chosen to commit illegal acts to discourage further organizing.
In fact, in the city where the company was born, they are stepping up the union-busting. With the latest store closure in Seattle, that will make four unionized stores that have been shuttered. The Broadway and Denny store is slated to be closed on Dec. 9, the one-year anniversary of the first Starbucks Workers United union election win in Buffalo, N.Y.
TAKE A STAND — Starbucks Workers United Seattle is urging all to show their support for Starbucks workers by taking one or more of the following actions:
— Send a direct message to Starbucks District Manager Taylor Pringle and his boss Regional Director Nica Tovey and tell them what you think of their actions in your own words.
— Sign the pledge: “No contract, no coffee!”
— Contribute to the hardship fund. A GoFundMe hardship fund has been set up to help Starbucks workers who have been retaliated against or had their store closed.
As Starbucks continues to close stores, company executive are citing “safety concerns” and their desire to protect employees as the reason. Many in the commercial media are buying it and simply parroting the company line.
But with the latest store closure announcement, The Stranger’s Conor Kelley decided to actually get up from his desk and go talk to some of the Starbucks workers. He found that the workers tell a much different story than management:
“They say the closures all followed a similar pattern, one designed to bust up union activity rather than to address safety. Now, workers worry about following the company’s safety directives for fear of having their own stores closed.”
In the face of Starbucks’ illegal retaliation, its employees have continued to join together in unions. The current wave of union organizing at Starbucks began in December 2021 with a store in Buffalo, N.Y. There are now 264 Starbucks stores in 36 states have won union elections, including 17 in Washington state. Just 59 stores have lost an election. Dozens more Starbucks stores have filed for a union and are awaiting NLRB-supervised elections, including three more in Washington.
Tacoma Art Museum opts for union busting
From the Stand: https://www.thestand.org/2022/11/tacoma-art-museum-opts-for-union-busting/
The following is from Tacoma Art Museum Workers United:
TACOMA (Nov. 23, 2022) — In a rushed vote, the Tacoma Art Museum Board refused to voluntarily recognize our union, TAM Workers United (TAMWU), which has more than 80 percent support among our coworkers.
A statement released by the museum illustrates a deliberate mischaracterization of what voluntary recognition of a union entails, despite our efforts to educate the board in person and in writing since going public with our union drive. The statement also bears the marks of the outside counsel the museum recently hired, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, one of the largest “union avoidance” firms in the country.
“Voluntary recognition is a legal pathway to unionization, categorizing it as anything else is simply misinformation and union busting,” said Eden Redmond, an institutional giving manager at TAM. “It’s disappointing, but we have great support from unions across Washington, the community in Tacoma, and workers at TAM, and we’re ready to keep going.”
“Again the board is making institutional decisions without the input from community or staff, showing they would rather rush to anti-union tactics than collaborate and hear from museum workers,” said Joe Liwag, a visitor services representative at TAM.
“This vote is just another example as to why the museum needs to be unionized,” said Carrie Morton, a visitor services representative. “Decisions are made at TAM with little transparency and with little regard for the stakeholders or our community. The problems at TAM are systemic and an overwhelming majority of workers agree that the solution is a strong union.”
TAKE A STAND — Show your solidarity by signing the community support letter. Also, be sure to follow TAM Workers United on Instagram and Twitter for the latest updates.
The museum’s willful ignorance about what, exactly, unions do has been a source of concern for us since the start of our union drive, and was again present in the museum’s statement. Our good-faith attempts to educate the Board or at least delay a vote until they could become informed were in vain.
“The Board described the union’s grievances as the result of bad behaviors and communication, and therefore outside the scope of what unions do,” Redmond said. “But that’s exactly what unions do- they make structural changes that secure workers rights no matter who is in power. We wanted to talk about a system, and they changed the subject to talk about individuals. This mischaracterizes our work and is a blatant union-busting tactic.”
Stephen Rue, lead preparator at TAM added, “Given that Thursday’s meeting was the first time the TAM Board has met since the unionization effort was made public one month ago, it is clear their denial was made in haste without fully understanding the legal process of voluntary recognition nor all the issues at stake.”
We understand that unions are not granted by employers, though they can be. They are voted into existence by workers themselves. If we need to create our union that way, without the good will of our employer, we are determined to do it.
“TAMWU will continue forward, united as workers spanning all departments of our museum, to bring to the community the message that denial of voluntary recognition is unacceptable and unionization is key to fixing the systematic wrongs that the TAM Board is now hiding behind as reason for their refusal.”