August 7, 2015
Meet the Labor School Class of 2015
The Class of 2015 was the largest class in several years, a sign that AFL-CIO affiliates in North Carolina are taking seriously the challenge, opportunity, and necessity for unions to educate, agitate, and organize the South.
Students this year got a five-day crash course in state labor law from General Counsel Mike Okun, expert instruction on Why Unions Still Matter and Handling Grievances from professors Diane Thomas-Holladay and Grainger Ledbetter of the University of Arkansas Little Rock’s Labor Education Program, and advice on Workers’ Compensation from one of the top attorneys in the field, Valerie Johnson.
If Labor School had a theme this year, it was the American Dream. What is it, what does it mean, where does it come from, and what future is there for workers in this country aspiring to live their own American Dream were all questions students tackled through class instruction, an advanced screening of the documentary film Dream On – which won’t air on PBS stations until Fall 2016, a film discussion, and a dose of Common Sense Economics.
Labor School is as much about building bonds of solidarity between union brothers and sisters from different local and international unions, across industries and economic sectors, and from diverse places, backgrounds, and life experiences. Whether through special events like the annual Shrimp-A-Roo hosted by ILA Local 1426, our Game Day and Picnic at Empie Park, or nightly hospitality, opportunities abounded for students to share stories, camaraderie, and fun.
After class on Thursday, students got an opportunity to put their solidarity into action by attending an info picket outside the AT&T Mobility store near campus to protest a draconian new company policy has replaced sick days with pink slips for sick workers. Not even a torrential rainstorm deterred dozens of students from showing their support.
“All union members inside the store were waving in support at the windows,” Jack Reynolds, president of CWA Local 3615, which represents AT&T Mobility workers, told us afterward.
“An army of union members striking in Wilmington is a rare sight, and it is due to each person’s dedicated associated with the AFL-CIO of North Carolina that this event has AT&T Mobility in Wilmington shaking in their penny loafers!” — Jack Reynolds, CWA 3615
Most days even began with a little song and dance, like on the last full day of instruction when a student from UFCW Local 1208, well-known for Stepping for Justice at Walmart and the Moral March, led Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan and other students on a step routine for the American Dream.
Did you attend Carolina Labor School this year? Share your memories in the comments below!