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60th Annual Convention Recap

Jeremy Sprinkle
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Honoring the past, building for the future

More than 200 delegates and guests gathered for our 60th Annual Convention in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, Sept. 13-15th to elect a new president and new executive board, hear from inspiring speakers, take part in skill-building workshops and movement-building breakout sessions, honor James Andrews and North Carolina's rich labor history, and adopt new resolutions to guide the organization over the coming year.

Delegates unanimously elected MaryBe McMillan as President - the first woman to serve in that role in North Carolina and one of only nine female state fed presidents in the American labor movement. McMillan previously served three terms as Secretary-Treasurer with James Andrews, whose retirement after 20 years as president and over 40 years working for the labor movement became official when McMillan took the oath of office on Friday morning.

“I look forward to working with our affiliates to build the movement we all want – one that is constantly growing, that is both big enough and bold enough to set the agenda and drive our politics, that is unafraid to hold our politicians and our own leaders accountable – a movement with the power to change this state and this nation.” -- MaryBe McMillan

Among the 33 vice presidents elected to the Executive Board of the NC State AFL-CIO are a second representative from the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), Luis Ruiz, and the first openly LGBTQ member, Denicia Montford Williams.

Speakers at this year's convention included Governor Roy Cooper, North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan, and national AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre.

"If your freedom doesn't start at the workplace, it isn't real freedom." Why #1u fights for democracy at work! #ncafl60

— NC State AFL-CIO (@NCStateAFLCIO) September 14, 2017

A panel discussion during the opening session included historian David Zonderman of NC State University, Bob Riggins of UAW, Justin Flores of FLOC, and Rene Caputo of the Duke Faculty Union reflecting on the past and building for the future.

The convention featured workshops on storytelling, internal and community organizing, and strategic planning for the future of North Carolina’s labor movement. It also highlighted the debut of a North Carolina labor history exhibit from the Knights of Labor in the 19th century to the Duke Faculty union in 2016.

Pres @marybemcmillan with Pres Emeritus @JamesAndrewsNC and NC Justice @judgemikemorgan, who administered her oath of office.

— NC State AFL-CIO (@NCStateAFLCIO) September 15, 2017

In recognition of the NC State AFL-CIO's 60th anniversary this year, the state fed commissioned and had printed a commemorative poster design by Winston-Salem, North Carolina, artist Kat Lamp, whose father is a retired steelworker of Local 8498.

Convention poster design by Kat Lamp

Andrews' retirement

Honors for James Andrews were aplenty at his last state fed convention as President, starting with a tribute by Gov. Cooper, who presented Andrews with the Order of the Longleaf Pine, North Carolina's highest honor.
.@NC_Governor Roy Cooper surprises @JamesAndrewsNC with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine! — NC State AFL-CIO (@NCStateAFLCIO) September 14, 2017
The honors continued with the screening of a video produced by state fed Communications Director Jeremy Sprinkle and featuring interviews with state and national labor leaders such as Tefere Gebre, J. David Cox, Baldemar Velasquez, and Clayola Brown - some of whom have known Andrews since before he began working for the NC State AFL-CIO in 1975. Delegates then took up a special resolution honoring James Andrews. During discussion of the resolution, Sprinkle, who also attended as a delegate, showed a video captured by C-Span of Congresswoman Alma Adams paying tribute to Andrews on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Following several other tributes from the floor, the resolution was adopted. MaryBe McMillan then presented James Andrews with a personal copy - framed alongside a special P.R. Latta Rank-and-File Award for service to the labor movement! “James has mentored and inspired countless labor leaders and activists in North Carolina and beyond,” said McMillan. “For over 40 years, he has fought tirelessly to make our state a better place for working people. Our labor movement is much stronger because of James’ leadership, and so many of us are better leaders because of his example. I know that I am.” What's more, President McMillan announced that, by sponsoring a special tribute ad book published for the convention, local unions, national and international unions, and central labor councils and other state federations from across the United States raised over $30,000 for Andrews' retirement. Finally, of the only 252 prints of the convention poster that were made, two were oversized prints - one to hang in the House of Labor in Raleigh and the other to be auctioned at the convention. The winner with a bid of $300 was Keith Watson, Teamsters Local 61, who then donated the print to James Andrews.

Press clips and additional links

Here are press clips related to the convention: Additional links:

Havelock Commissioner Pete Van Vliet welcoming our 60th Annual Convention to Eastern North Carolina