Pat Kellett, general secretary-treasurer of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States of America and Canada (UA) was the conference keynoter. His comments centered on the importance of building power so that all who sell their intelligence, experience, and strength to an employer to earn a living have a fair shot at a piece of the American Dream. He told the attendees that that kind of power needed to level playing fields and remove roadblocks on the path to creating a better life for those that follow is only through organizing the unorganized into a labor union.
The conference design includes a keynote followed by three repeating workshops so everyone gets to hear all of the presentations.
Elise Bryant, national president of the Coalition of Labor Union Women and executive director of the Labor Heritage Foundation addressed how the AFL-CIO’s constituency groups work to educate and empower typically marginalized union members.
John Lodewyck, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2340, focused on how union members can understand and address instances of sexual harassment in their workplaces. His comments focused on two areas: educating members to avoid engaging in divisive behavior and the importance of if you see something, say something to building member solidarity.
Jeremy Lipschultz, the Isaacson professor in UNO’s School of Communication, shared with attendees how best to use the power that exists in social media. He identified the best platforms to inform and dialogue with others about the values and principles at the heart of the American labor movement.
John Kretzschmar, director of WBILS, led the closing plenary. He emphasized that knowledge only becomes power when it is put to use. He emphasized the importance of creating values bridges to actually getting a message heard by those not yet fully aware that an injury to one is an injury to all.
As important as the presentations were, the networking that happens throughout the day is an under-appreciated benefit that helps those in and out of organized labor appreciate their shared values.
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