Last week, Ella Jones became the first female African American candidate to be elected to the City Council in Ferguson, Mo., thanks in part to the endorsement and support of UFCW Local 655. UFCW members got involved in the local race because of their desire to elect local leadership that was a better reflection of the diverse citizens of Ferguson.
Although 70% of Ferguson’s population is black, only one African American held a seat on the City Council. After record voter turnout in this off year election, three African Americans were elected to the Council, including Jones.
Jones has strong ties to labor and understands the difference that belonging to a union family can make. Throughout her campaign, Jones advocated for creating sustainable work opportunities for Missouri youth, and for the value of a union contract and a voice on the job, saying that, “when workers have good jobs and thrive, our communities do as well.”
“My husband was a member of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1,” Jones said. “For many years, having a union contract was the only way an African American could have a stable job and earn fair wages. Being a union member made the difference for my family. It’s why we could have a good life. That’s why I support unions and union jobs – so families can have the same experience we did,” said Jones.
After meeting with Jones and having extensive conversations on issues important to constituents, UFCW Local 655 members eagerly endorsed her candidacy. Many UFCW Local 655 members contributed donations to her campaign, hand billed at worksites to spread the word about her platform, and made sure people went to the polls on voting day.
“After the turmoil and upheaval experienced by the citizens of Ferguson, voters like UFCW 655 members knew that a new governing board was needed to shift the focus back to the people who are the roots of the community in order to get the city back on its feet,” said Local 655 President Dave Cook.
Ella Jones became the first female African American candidate to be elected to the City Council in Ferguson, Mo
UFCW Local 655 members and staff in Saint Louis, Mo., attended the first Equity and Inclusion Diversity Leadership Training put together by the UFCW Civil Rights and Community Action Department. Over the course of two and a half days, about a dozen UFCW Local 655 leaders from a variety of backgrounds participated in the first session of the three-part diversity training series. The training was developed to help increase staff and members’ knowledge and awareness of diversity issues and elevate the importance of inclusiveness in local unions. The program focuses on local union leaders developing cultural competence with a new set of attitudes, skills, and behaviors in order to have themselves and their organizations work effectively in cross-cultural situations and workplace diversity. Ultimately, the trainings are designed to empower participants to take action and help steer their local union to develop and promote organizational equity and focus on fairness in order to create change in a local union’s culture.
“Stepping outside of my comfort zone may be uncomfortable, but it can be a stepping stone for my future responsibilities as a leader in my local union. Thanks to the diversity training, I am ready to go back to work and start taking action to build relationships with other members to empower us to stand united for justice and equality in our union and in our communities,” said UFCW Local 655 member Amy Nichols.
UFCW Local 655 hosted their diversity training for local union leaders in response to the recent events in Ferguson, Mo., and the impact that the Ferguson events have had on the labor movement in the state. The first session in the diversity training is titled “Why Diversity Matters.” During this session, participants were involved in an open dialogue about the origin of racism, and the history of racial inequality and its roots in economic injustice. They examined different identities and how they relate to people in the workplace and society. Participants discussed the ways people experience or observe different forms of discrimination at work and in the community. They also learned about what being an ally and having solidarity means in a labor context.
“We need to have the difficult conversations with our coworkers, members, and the community about why this fight for equality is so important. We need to take the conversations from the trainings out to our workplaces and communities if we want to start taking real action to create change and an environment of inclusiveness,” said UFCW Local 655 staffer Theresa Hester.
During the first session, participants were later joined by young activists from Missouri, who are fighting for social and economic justice in Ferguson and throughout the state. Participants will follow up the training with recruiting members and coworkers for the April 15 Workers’ Day of Action activities.
“In today’s America where we are more diverse as a country than ever, it is incumbent on current labor to develop future leaders that act and look like our society. If our current labor leaders do not provide the needed training to a young diverse workforce our labor leaders tomorrow will not reflect the make-up of our society. On a broader spectrum, I would hope all leaders not just labor leaders would be training for a more diverse leadership team in the future. I believe the best possibility to end the wealth disparity in America is to have diverse leaders in the future and the only way to achieve this is to provide leadership training today to a diverse group of workers,” said UFCW Local 655 President Dave Cook.
“The training for new UFCW leaders is critical at this juncture of the union movement. Union leaders will need to have new skills to recruit and engage members in a changing workforce demographic. I’m encouraged to see union leaders such as UFCW Local 655 President Dave Cook, taking the initiative to embrace this challenge of diversity and racial equity and getting leaders in the local involved. Unions must take on the dual fight against the various “isms” both inside and outside the union. Unions are a critical part of the social justice movement that’s building power for all workers,” said Jamala Rogers, one of the diversity program trainers, a retired teacher and member of AFT.
UFCW Local 655 will complete the other two parts of the diversity program in the coming months. The second session will be “Race and Politics,” which will take place in July, and the third session “New Generation Diversity: I Am Today’s Leader,” will take place in November.
To see some great discussion and other highlights from this training session, click here.
To learn more about the diversity trainings and hosting a training at your local, contact the UFCW Civil Rights and Community Action Department at email@example.com.
UFCW Local 1208 in attendance at the most recent Moral March; photo via NC State AFL-CIO https://www.facebook.com/ncstateaflcio
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. A diverse group of marchers walked to demand that the state of Alabama uphold the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted the right to vote to African Americans.
In recent years, after regressive policies reminicent of laws that spawned the civil rights movement of the 1960’s were passed in the state of North Carolina, concerned citizens and community members mobilized to fight back—and Moral Mondays were born.
Fed up with state lawmakers that consistently tried to undermine the economic mobility of poor and working people, and who cut the Earned Income Tax credit which cut unemployment benefits, and blocked access to healthcare for thousands of North Carolinians, the mass movement now called Moral Mondays involves a diverse group of people and organizations who gather in weekly demonstrations at the state Capitol. They come to defend the rights of all people—to stop the discriminatory creation of barriers to the ballot, protect funding for education and Medicaid, jumpstart stagnant wages, and continue the fight for racial justice. These non-violent protestors continue the tradition of direct action and civil disobedience that activists like Dr. Martin Luther King stood so strongly for in the 60s, and they continually face arrest and jail time.
One such Moral Monday event last year brought together a coalition of over 160 organizations and thousands of people in what was the largest protest gathering in the South since the Selma march. Since then, the movement has spread to other cities in the state and across the country.
In North Carolina, the activists have seen victories as a result of their collective action. There’s been a pay increase for public school teachers. A judge ruled in the people’s favor by blocking an unconstitutional school voucher program. Some state officials, including Gov. Pat McCrory, are backpedaling from their hardline stance against Medicaid expansion. And Raleigh’s District Attorney dismissed the charges against 941 protesters who were arrested for their acts of civil disobedience inside the General Assembly last year. But there is a long way to go. Republican lawmakers are still trying to pass laws that end up hurting the sick, the poor, and minorities.
Most recently, a Moral March for Love and Justice was held in Raleigh on Valentine’s Day. The march was attended by veteran moral marchers like the Reverend William Barber, an inspiring speaker and driving force behind the movement. UFCW Local 1208 members were also in attendance.
Over the past week, we have seen how collective action can really pay off. On Friday, our UFCW International President Marc Perrone made a public statement following the news from Walmart that it would be raising its wage floor: “This is not an act of corporate benevolence. It would not have been possible without the courage of countless workers who are standing together, taking risks, and demanding wages and schedules that can support their families. Walmart is responding directly to calls from workers and their allies to pay a living wage.”
AFL-CIO Communications Director Eric Hauser also released a statement that said, “In the past 24 hours, Walmart workers got a raise, IBEW and CWA workers settled their strike with FairPoint, and United Steelworkers made safety at oil refinery plants a national issue. One 24 hour period shows how much progress can be made when workers come together to speak with one voice.”
It takes bravery, dedication, and resilience to stand up to those who try to assert unjust power over us, but the likes of Walmart workers who won a wage increase this week, community supporters who helped make it happen, and civil rights activists from the 1960s to today show us time and time again that when we stand together, we are powerful.
This video clip provided by NC Policy Watch provides a glimpse into the many causes people turned out to fight for on the February 14th Moral March in Raleigh, N.C.