Posted April 21, 2009
On March 21st over 200 labor activists and organizers — about 70 percent rank-and-file members of labor unions — packed Labor Notes’ Troublemakers School in New York City. The crowd was much larger than organizers had anticipated.
Attendees represented the CWA, TWU, AFT, NYSNA, IBT, AFSCME, ILA, IBEW, IATSE, the Workplace Project, Make the Road-NY and other worker centers. Some community organizations, such as Community Voices Heard, located in East Harlem, were represented as well.
The NYC Troublemakers School was part of Labor Notes’ larger effort to bring together activists to wrestle with the challenges presented by the economic crisis. Troublemakers schools already occurred in Kansas City and schools are planned for the Bay area, Chicago and Los Angeles.
The NYC school opened with a plenary on “The Economic Crisis and Working New Yorkers”, featuring Ketny Jean Francois, a Board member of Community Voices Heard, William Riley Fernandez, a UPS worker and Teamster reformer, and Mark Brenner, Labor Notes Director.
Workshops included skills-building sessions like “Running for Union Office” and “Building Power Through Grievances”, big picture discussions on “Understanding the Economic Crisis” and strategy sessions on “New York’s Fiscal Crisis and Labor’s Response”. A workshop on “Building Fighting Unions included Rafael Feliciano, President of the FMPR (Federation of Teachers in Puerto Rico) and drew 70 participants.
The closing session, “You Can’t Win Without a Fight” featured Ricky Maclin, a Republic Windows and Doors worker who helped lead the Chicago sit down strike, gave a moving description of their struggle and a call for workers around the country to stand up and fight for their rights.
Sandy Pope, Teamster local 805 President, closed the event with a call to action to public and private sector workers to come together and take action against budget cuts and concessions. Her message? More trying times call for more militant action.
For those who want to put words to action, striking Stella D’Oro workers, who attended the school, have joined with City University students to plan a demonstration for Wed. April 22nd. It starts at City College on Convent Avenue and 138th Street in Manhattan. They’ll continue at 4pm that day at the Stella D’Oro factory on 237th Street and Broadway in the Bronx.