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Labor School Class of 2011 Makes the Grade

Jeremy Sprinkle
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Danger: Educated union members!

Some four dozen members from local unions across North Carolina assembled on the campus of UNC Wilmington July 10-15 for a week full of the education, training, and solidarity building that is  Carolina Labor School. The Class of 2011 was one of the best yet! Students left energized and excited about their experience and about the bonds they made which will last them a lifetime.

Click here to view photos from the 2011 Carolina Labor School.

NC State AFL-CIO General Counsel - and one of the top labor lawyers in America - Mike Okun put on his professorial hat for a week-long course in state labor law. Visiting professors from the Center for Labor Education and Research (CLEAR) in Alabama - Marc Cryer and Roslyn Crews - returned to teach political economy and alternative dispute resolution strategies, respectively. Media outreach specialist at the national AFL-CIO, Amaya Tune, taught a workshop about media strategy and messaging and led students in a creative exercise where they used magic markers to apply what they learned by creating and sharing their own protest signs. Workers' compensation attorney, Valerie Johnson, gave students a double dose of knowledge of the system that provides payment for lost wages and medical care for injured workers in North Carolina.

This year we screened a new documentary film, AbUSed: The Postville Raid, to challenge Labor School students on this point: we are the union, an solidarity among all workers is our strength. AbUSed is "at once an epic story of survival, hope, and humble aspirations, of triumph, defeat, and rebirth. The face of immigration is revealed through the gripping personal stories of the individuals, the families, and the town that survived the most brutal, most expensive, and the largest immigration raid in the history of the United States."

Click here to watch a trailer for AbUSed: The Postville Raid.

After the film, Jennifer Angarita, Immigration Training Coordinator and Eddie Acosta, National Workers' Center Coordinator, AFL-CIO, led students in a workshop that exposed the truths and the falsehoods in the debate about our nation's broken immigration system and how employers and unscrupulous politicians exploit that system to divide working people.

Jimmie reenacts for the class her advice to her teammate, Herman, on how to win at cornhole: "Put it in the hole!"

Labor School is an opportunity for union members to leave their shops, their hometowns, and share the successes and struggles where they come from with other union members. Students seemed to gain a new perspective about their place in a larger movement, one concerned with improving the lives and protecting the health, safety, and dignity of all workers.

Thanks to you, our members, for your continued support of the educational programs of the NC State AFL-CIO. Without the commitment you and your membership have to North Carolina’s union movement, the Carolina Labor School would not be possible.

Take home reading

After our class on messaging and media strategy, several students expressed interest in learning more about how to talk to their fellow union members about politics, how to frame our message and other ways to make the conversation easier, and how to plan and implement a one-on-one organizing campaign to spread the message. Check out these reading materials for more information:

  1. Talking Politics to Union Members (PDF)
  2. Political Messaging & Organizing (PDF)
  3. Planning and Implementing a One-on -One Organizing Campaign (PDF)

Our 2011 Labor School "Shining Stars" (from left): Jimmie Perry, GMP 193; Larry Dubisky, USW 959; and Timothy Rorie, NALC 2659.