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65th Annual Convention Recap: Building Power for Working People

Jeremy Sprinkle
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For the 65th year in a row, hundreds of North Carolina’s union members, labor leaders, and elected officials came together at the Annual Convention of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO, held Thursday and Friday, Sept. 29th and 30th in Raleigh, to say “count me in” to build power for working people through organizing, mobilizing, and voting together for a better life. 

Checkout the 65th Annual Convention Photo Album

The convention brought together more than 275 labor leaders and activist members from across North Carolina for a day and a half of keynote speeches, panel discussions, and group activities focused on building the labor movement, electing pro-worker candidates, and educating the next generation of union members. 

Speakers in attendance included: 

  • North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper
  • North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein 
  • AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler 
  • UAW President Ray Curry 

“We are building a more powerful labor movement, a movement that wins victories for working people,” said NC State AFL-CIO President MaryBe McMillan. “This convention is about the power of our solidarity. And it is about the incredible power of hope. At a time when so many people have lost faith in our social institutions, people still have faith in unions. That’s why we have seen such a surge in worker organizing.”

On Thursday morning, North Carolina workers involved with some of the most exciting unionization campaigns in the state gathered for a panel about the power of a union and the importance of building the state’s labor movement. Participants included National Women’s Soccer League Players Association (NWSLPA) President Meghan Burke, who spoke about that union’s fight to achieve a historic collective bargaining agreement that secured equal pay for male and female players. The full list of panelists included: 

  • Amy Waters, National Nurses United
  • Meghann Burke, National Women’s Soccer League Players Association
  • Sara Coello, Washington-Baltimore News Guild/CWA
  • Keith Bullard, Raise Up for $15/SEIU
  • Moderator: Catherine Walton-Ward, Organizing & Mobilization Coordinator, NC State AFL-CIO

"Organizing is the way we get to the world we want to live in." Powerful panel on the Power of a Union w/@nwsl_players@RaiseUptheSouth@WBNG32035@NationalNurses!

— NC State AFL-CIO // #OrganizeTheSouth (@NCStateAFLCIO) September 29, 2022

Following a speech by Governor Cooper, on Thursday afternoon, union activists came together for a panel titled “The Power to Change Lives, Hearts and Minds” for a discussion about how the union difference can transform workers’ lives and livelihoods for the better. Panelists included:

  • Harold Black, Communications Workers of America (CWA) 
  • Donneta Williams, United Steelworkers (USW)
  • Melissa Reyes, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) 

"November is coming up. My veto is on the line. You can make a difference, and we need you to! Our democracy is on the brink, and we've got to elect people who care about working families." @NC_Governor, thank you for joining us! #CountMeIn

— NC State AFL-CIO // #OrganizeTheSouth (@NCStateAFLCIO) September 29, 2022

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. 

Group photo of nurses holding an award they received for service to the labor movement
2022 PR Latta Award winners National Nurses United / NNOC

This year’s award went to National Nurses United / National Nurses Organizing Committee for their historic unionizing victory in 2020 at Healthcare Corporation of America’s Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, and for their ongoing efforts to protect nurses and patients at the Durham VA. 

Thank you @NCStateAFLCIO for recognizing North Carolina nurses' patient advocacy, courage, and inspiring determination to be the change we want to see in the world.

We're honored to have received the PR Latta Award this year.

— NationalNursesUnited (@NationalNurses) October 5, 2022

On Friday morning UAW President Ray Curry kicked things off with a rousing speech. "They called you essential,” Curry said, referencing how employers treated workers at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Will they remember you put your life on the line to care for others, put out fires, feed people, deliver what we needed? We must make sure they do by organizing unions and bargaining contracts that safeguard our future!” 

Watch video greetings by AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler

Finally, North Carolina political candidates and elected officials came together for a final panel on the “Power of Our Vote.” Participants included: 

  • Fmr. Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, US Senate Candidate
  • Sen. Wiley Nickel, State Senator and Congressional, District 13 Candidate
  • Rep. Robert Reives, State House Minority Leader, NC House District 54

“I fought to restore the freedom of public workers to have union contracts in North Carolina,” said Sen. Nickel during the panel. “And I will be a vote for the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act in Congress because when workers do better, we all do better!”

"Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell, and organize!" @wileynickel quoting @algore on what we have to do to win for working families in November.

— NC State AFL-CIO // #OrganizeTheSouth (@NCStateAFLCIO) September 30, 2022

Visit the 65th Annual Convention website for more info.

Read the 2022 Convention - Resolutions (adopted)Download