By Kevin Gundlach, SCFL President
For the last 6 months, I have had the honor and privilege working along side many of you, on behalf of the labor movement as activists and as organizers; as Sisters and as Brothers of Labor. In the last 6 months, we have committed our time, energy and resources to fight for social justice within our communities and to rebuild our unions. We have much more to do and we have a lot going on.
In order to achieve such goals, the South Central Federation of Labor has been working on a number of exciting projects. We must continue to strengthen the pillars, the foundation for which labor must have to move forward and rebuild.
In June’s issue, I wrote about the importance of community coalition- building, community outreach, and community services—one of the pillars needed to strengthen Labor. The Community First program was initiated to form real bonds between labor and a core group of neighborhoods. We will continue to meet and act. SCFL’s Community Services committee, labor’s relationship with and support of the United Way, as well as our own personal contributions and service to our community are all essential. We must continue to organize our neighborhoods in order to build a stronger labor movement. In future articles, we will be bringing you educational pieces and personal stories, as well as how you can participate and be a part of this most imperative pillar we need to focus on.
Another pillar or critical piece of the foundation is education. Education is the key to power. We must continue to educate ourselves, the members we represent, all workers – union and non-union alike and the community at large. The UW-School for Workers continues to work with the SCFL. For the first time, SCFL and the UW-School for Workers co-hosted a Labor Leader’s Forum, where union leaders throughout the area came together to find common ground, share stories, learn from each other and find out ways we can be supportive of one another. Within the next couple of weeks, SCFL’s Education committee will be meeting to discuss the educational needs and goals for the next ‘school’ year.
Effective communications between Local Unions and messaging to the public is another imperative pillar we must focus on. SCFL’s ad hoc Communications committee is doing just that. We are working on how to communicate effectively to various ‘audiences’, whether and how to integrate the various forms of communications. The SCFL will continue to assist and take an even more active role in communications.
When dealing with a hostile employer, a corporate attack, or a State government body that is unjust, it’s important to have the knowledge, skills, techniques and allies in place and ready to assist. The SCFL ad hoc Solidarity Support committee continues to work on innovative, creative solutions in order to ensure workers receive the assistance they need. And the AFL-CIO agrees. In May, 2012, the AFL-CIO International sent out a manual titled: “Strong On and Beyond The Picket Line. Organizing an effective strike and lockout assistance program. SCFL remains committed to Solidarity Support for our Sisters and Brothers on the line.
We all heard the ‘Recall Walker’ chants reverberating throughout the crowds in the last year. Successes and failures have been debated. As have the proper tactics and strategy. And they will continue to be analyzed. One thing we know to be true is that many of the Counties surrounding Madison went for Walker, as did rural areas, small towns and even those with modest incomes. Regardless whether we gained or lost ground, we must improve our relationships in these areas. Because of this, SCFL applied for and was successful in obtaining a Solidarity Grant from the AFL-CIO International. It will be utilized for a part-time Mobilization Coordinator, who will be covering the ‘outlying counties’ – Dodge and Jefferson counties being the first, primary focus. Organizing the local labor community as well as community coalition-building with family farms, small businesses, and working people in general will be an integral responsibility.
Rebuilding entails bringing new people into the movement. So the SCFL will be looking for students to become interns, who will be able to gain experience and skills while understanding the value of Union workers and the Unions we are all a part of. These fresh faces will help us rebuild, renew and rejuvenate the pillars that are imperative to Labor.
When the pillars of community-coalition building, educating ourselves, communications and solidarity support are all reinforced, we will be able to not only see electoral and workplace wins, but we will witness structural changes as well. Yet, the underlying foundation we must use for the pillars of Labor is organizing. Organizing our community, our own unions, an effective communications strategy and a solidarity support network is critical. It will take time. It will take energy. It will take resources. It will take all of us – union and non-union alike.