66th Annual Convention Brings Labor Solidarity to Asheville

Woman holding two protest signs at a rally outdoors

For Immediate Release

September 8, 2023

NC State AFL-CIO’s 66th Annual Convention Brings Labor Solidarity To Asheville

The in-person event brought together nearly 275 labor union activists and leaders to educate and inspire North Carolina workers to keep up historic levels of union organizing!

“Ain’t no mountain high enough, no corporation big enough, and no politician powerful enough to stop us from moving forward until there’s justice and shared prosperity for us all!”

RALEIGH, NC – For the 66th year in a row, hundreds of North Carolina union members and leaders, community organizers, and elected officials came together at the Annual Convention of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO, held Thursday and Friday, Sept. 7th and 8th in Asheville, to say, “Ain’t no mountain high enough” to stop working people from organizing and mobilizing because life truly is better in a union. 

See photos of the 66th Annual Convention on DropEvent.com

With public approval of unions and union organizing victories both at historic levels, the day and a half convention brought together nearly 275 labor leaders and activist members from across North Carolina for inspirational speeches, panel discussions, and rallies all focused on building the labor movement and the solidarity support needed to meet the moment. 

Speakers in attendance included: 

  • North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper
  • AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond 
  • National Nurses United Executive Director Bonnie Castillo 

“Now is our time,” said NC State AFL-CIO President MaryBe McMillan. “We have an incredible opportunity to change workers’ lives and our nation for the better. Together there ain’t no mountain high enough, no corporation big enough, and no politician powerful enough to stop us from organizing and moving forward until there’s justice and shared prosperity for all of us!”

On Thursday morning, National Nurses United executive director Bonnie Castillo kicked things off with an impassioned defense of union organizing to protect patients and working people alike. “Our oath to care for patients doesn’t stop at the hospital wall! We’ll continue to fight for meaningful change and to organize in the South!”

North Carolina workers involved in some of the most inspiring union organizing drives in the state gathered for a panel about the power of solidarity to transform lives and build thriving communities. Participants included: 

  • Jonny Behrens, SEIU / Duke Grad Students Union
  • Rachelle Netzer, UFCW
  • Steven Pitts, UFCW
  • Ariana Lingerfeldt, IBT
  • Calandra Hackney, Actors’ Equity Association
  • Moderator: Catherine Walton-Ward, Organizing & Mobilization Coordinator, NC State AFL-CIO

National AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond kicked off the program Thursday afternoon by saying the best way to build our power as workers and to strengthen our democracy is to organize. “I believe one day our children and grandchildren will hold us responsible for what we did and didn’t do to meet this moment. America’s future truly depends on us!”

Following S-T Redmond, the convention held a panel about protecting and strengthening our democracy–and recognizing attempts to undermine it and paths to overcome those obstacles. Panelists included:

  • Justice Anita Earls, NC Supreme Court
  • Jean-Patrick Grillet, Democracy NC
  • Thomasena Hamilton, NC APRI
  • Sailor Jones, Common Cause NC
  • Moderator: Charles Clark, Southern Region Dir., AFL-CIO 

When the convention recessed on Thursday, some two hundred attendees joined National Nurses United, the Western North Carolina Central Labor Council, IBEW Local 238, Asheville Food & Beverage United, and Just Economics for a march to nearby Pack Square to rally support for all of the union organizing happening in Asheville.

One convention highlight each year is the presentation of the “PR Latta Rank-and-File Award” for outstanding service to the labor movement. The award is named after a longtime labor leader with the Communications Workers of America who passed away in 2014 at the age of 95. 

This year’s award went to United Steelworkers (USW) Smoky Mountain Local 507 for faithfully representing workers at the paper mill in Canton, North Carolina, which unexpectedly closed after more than a century in operation.

Friday morning the convention hosted a panel discussion about policies that help working people, including significant policy victories at the local, state, and federal level–like Medicaid expansion and the federal bi-partisan infrastructure law, which is already bringing billions of dollars to North Carolina. Participants included:

  • Congressman Wiley Nickel, CD 13
  • Sen. Julie Mayfield, State Senate 49
  • Glenn Kelly, North America’s Building Trades Unions
  • Lori Hedrick, NNU
  • Jen Hampton, Just Economics WNC/Asheville Food & Beverage United

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper delivered a rousing speech to close out the 66th Annual Convention, taking lawmakers to task for undermining the health and freedom to thrive of working people across our state. “Even though I won’t be on the ballot next year, I’ll do everything I can to elect people at all levels who care about and prioritize working families!”

Contact: Jeremy Sprinkle, jeremy@aflcionc.org, 336-255-2711.


The North Carolina State AFL-CIO is the largest association of local unions and union councils in North Carolina, representing over one-hundred thousand union members, fighting for good jobs, safe workplaces, workers’ rights, consumer protections, and quality public services on behalf of ALL working people.