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More than 2000 attend Labor Notes Conference

By staff |
April 16, 2014
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Chicago, IL - Over 2000 people attended the 2014 Labor Notes conference here, April 4-6, bringing together some of the best fighters in the labor movement for 140 crowded workshops of people discussing how to rebuild labor in the U.S. and abroad, and a militant protest at Staples on behalf of postal workers fighting privatization.

Mark Dimonstein, the newly-elected president of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), gave a rousing speech in defense of postal workers and public sector unions.

"We're living in a moment when six members of the Walmart family have the accumulated wealth of 40% of this country," he said, detailing how the super-rich avoid paying taxes and, after successfully beating down private sector unions, have now "unleashed their fury on public sector unions." Dimonstein added, "When they don't pay who does? We do. And when they still don't have the money they take it out of the public sector.”

Asked to say something about the victory of his reform slate in the APWU, Dimonstein explained, "We simply told our members the truth as we understood it, we went to the rank and file around this country, we never offered a path of guaranteed or easy victories, the only thing we guaranteed is if we were elected we would wage an unrelenting fight alongside the membership to save the public postal service, the fight to rebuild our union contracts, the fight to save our union, and we promised to enter the battlefield without white flags or surrendering, that was our promise. We asked the members to support us if they want a union the is willing to fight back."

Conference attendee Charles Jordan, of Teamsters Local 804 in New York City, was recently on the front lines of a battle with UPS in his local. Teamsters of Local 804 were fighting the unjust firing of their union steward, who has 24 years working for UPS. In response to management walking him off the job, 250 drivers held an emergency protest outside their facility. UPS started replacing some of the 250 and said they were going to fire all of them. A campaign to save their jobs resulted in a victory where all 250 are back at work now.

Jordan stated, "The support for Local 804 was great. It was understood that the 804 fight was not only to primarily get our drivers reinstated, but also to protect the act of solidarity shown that fateful day when the drivers remembered, 'an injury to one, is an injury to all,' and they stood up for their brother unjustly fired."

Fight Back! hosted a party Saturday evening that featured class struggle unionists, including the president of an AFSCME local in Minnesota; a labor leader from El Salvador, where the people just elected a pro-worker government; a leader of the Chicago Teachers Union, a worker from Teamsters 804 who was one of the 250 UPS workers that recently went on strike, and many more.

One of the teachers in attendance at the Fight Back! party asked the crowd, “Where has unions following the rules gotten us? The game is rigged. Unions are going to have to start breaking the rules and looking at civil disobedience."

Blake Branum, a rank-and-file Teamster from Local 344 in Milwaukee, said, "I was astounded not only by how much knowledge I had taken in but by the diverse amount of people who are proud and unwilling to compromise what they believe in their heart.”

Cherrene Horazuk, president of AFSCME 3800, told the party attendees, "We know that working people win when we stand up and fight back, when we fight the boss for a better workplace, when we use the most powerful tools in our toolbox - the strike and solidarity - and when we organize as a class to make this a better place for all working people."