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Member Spotlight: Braxton Winston II (IATSE)

Jeremy Sprinkle
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Member Spotlight is a new, recurring blog post series intended to highlight and connect the dots between the programs and priorities of the NC State AFL-CIO and the leaders and activist members of our affiliates who make it all possible.

My name is Braxton Winston, and I am a member of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE) Locals 322 (Stagecraft) and 491 (Film & TV) living in Charlotte, NC.

I’ve been a laborer in show business for 18 years, and I love every part of it. Everyday we’re creating experiences that last for a couple of hours in real time but provide memories that our patrons will keep forever. Our industry moves and grows in sync with Charlotte, and our work directly reflects the culture of our town.

People who work in show business are very aware of how electoral politics affects us. My first political campaign experience came working for my union in 2014. After a rough election, the new North Carolina General Assembly let state tax incentives that supported our industry expire. That choice drove thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of revenue out of our state, setting up Georgia to become the “Hollywood of the South” instead. For me that was direct evidence that representation matters because the values of those elected are the ones that get represented in the policies they pass and the monies they spend.

Flash forward two years later and I found myself on the front lines of the demonstrations of social unrest after our police department killed a man named Keith Lamont Scott. To me the killing and the response from our elected and appointed leaders made the need for serious policy changes obvious, but I didn't feel like anyone was showing up to advocate for the types of changes I wanted to see. So I asked myself, “If not me then who, and if not now then when?” So I ran for City Council on a platform of creating a more equitable, accessible, and interconnected Charlotte. I am grateful to now be seeking my third term.

What I want people to know is that workers have power. Workers are power, and we belong in the arena of governing. We can and should instill the values of a safe, healthy, and prosperous workplace in every office on the ballot because we know the benefits of a safe, healthy, and prosperous workplace extend way beyond the walls of that workplace. Those values and benefits create the foundation for beloved communities and neighborhoods. 

We also must remember that Election Day is when the work begins. Our membership needs to be engaged with the various processes of governing between elections. We should use our culture of organizing to engage in the legislative process, the creation of budgets, serving on boards & commissions, and various other opportunities to shape policy both locally and statewide.