WILD in the Winter
Our 2011 WILD in the Winter theme--Our Jobs, Our Communities: The Public Sector Belongs to Us--was very timely, given the dramatic attacks on public sector unions around the country and a huge upsurge of support for them, particularly in Wisconsin.
WILD in the Winter East was held on March 5 at the Plumbers & Gasfitters Local 12 in Boston, and featured a panel of four prominent women in the labor movement and social justice community who spoke eloquently about the possibilities and setbacks involved in the fight for economic justice.
Elissa Cadillic, President of AFSCME Local 1526, which represents non-librarian staff of the Boston Public Library, spoke about her union's campaign to prevent library branch closings and massive layoffs and the coalition-building that was necessary for success. Maude Hurd, President of New England United for Justice, and a past President of ACORN, talked about the terrible right-wing smear campaign that destroyed ACORN, but also inspired us with the persistence of ACORN's mission, which is being reborn throughout the country under different names but with many of the same members. Susan Tousignant, President of SEIU Local 509, spoke about her personal experience as a public sector worker-- the diligence and patience it took to pass civil service exams and to find positions for which she was qualified, and the hard work she's put in over the years, only to occasionally be berated by people for supposedly not deserving the job security and compensation she has worked for. Finally, Veronica Turner, Executive Vice President of 1199 SEIU, closed out the session with a rousing call to action to demand respect, fair pay, benefits and good working conditions for all workers.
After the panel, participants divided into three groups for interactive workshops, two in English and one in Spanish. One focused on messaging that public sector workers can use to build coalitions and support for the work that they do, and the other two focused on fair taxation and revenue to support the services that we need.
After lunch the event was closed by Jeannette Huezo of United for a Fair Economy, who spoke about UFE's recent report State of the Dream 2011: Austerity for Whom? which addresses cuts in the public sector and the way they disproportionately hit communities of color in the United States.