Five delegates from OPEIU Local 2's Rising Stars "Step Up" Committee joined more than 1,000 participants at the AFL-CIO Next Up Summit who left their mark on Chicago. The delegates networked and connected with other young workers in the DC metro area. They heard about the fight for equality from featured speakers like Danny Glover, AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Liz Shuler, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Congressman Keith Ellison and Chicago area activists. They socialized and formed relationships with young workers from different unions with the common purpose of strengthening the middle class.
The summit was filled with educational, empowering, and challenging workshops such as “Collective Bargaining 101”and “Labor Law” to “Work. Like a Girl“ and “Queering the Labor Movement”. There were over 80 amazing workshops submitted by young people and conducted by young people. Participants could also choose from 7 different solidarity actions to leave their mark on the working community of Chicago with a huge focus on the #fightfor15, the fight to raise the minimum wage. Young activists caused “trouble” like only true unionists can by chanting for fair wages through the streets, the parking lot and even in the store.
All of the delegates had an amazing, empowering and educational experience and they're ready to get to work in their states to strengthen the middle class.
Jason Burnett (AFGE Staff)
Reflections on Protecting Jobs and Digital Freedoms: Labor's Connection to an Open Internet
I have to say it was an amazing panel with an issue really close to home. I am an IT/Information Security specialist and the issue of net neutrality is a cause I feel passionate about. Knowing that l can marry my two passions (labor and technology) to a cause really resonates with me. I plan to take this back with me and continue to champion this cause. As it effects both labor as well as jobs. I plan too keep in touch with the panel to join in on the fight in my community!
Reflections on Summit
My experience at the 2015 summit was remarkable. There was so much knowledge and experience to pull from amongst my peers it was astounding. The level of union pride and willingness to share that spirit was evident in every workshop and every action. From the brown bags to the state-based workshops, I was enthralled with the amount of information to be gained. It was really nice to meet young workers from afar but a jackpot meeting those in my area. We all bonded and became fast friends sharing experiences and stories. Sharing ways to get things done as well as ways to get our members and communities involved. We learned what groups we could reach out to, to get balls rolling on multiple courts. We learned not only how to plan but how to get that plan rolling. What questions to ask to get the most out of strategic meetings and planning sessions. Most importantly I learned that I am not alone in the young labor movement. That there is a world of young activists backing me up and ready to take up the fight in every corner where injustice lives.
Erin Farmer (IBEW staff)
"This is really difficult!!! I took away so much and I am a better person because of this summit. I went in having "IDK" as an answer to what kind of impact I wanted to make...to NOW KNOWING what I need to do to unite my fellow union members and people that are struggling because of greed, hate and injustice. They don't all have a voice and I have to stand with them in their fight. I'm fired up just writing this out! We are one, we are united, and young workers will be the change that this world needs! DROP MIC!"
Ash Jayde Newkirk (IBEW staff)
It hasn’t been 2 days since the conference ended and I still can’t quite put my feelings into words that are strong enough. This is the only way I know how to explain:
I grew up in the “punk rock scene” with Zines, Mix CDs, and compilations benefiting different organizations. I was always the young one. Oddly enough my mother would tell my older sister to take me to shows/concerts, so I could somewhat watch over my sister. On the flip side, my sister would utilize my relationship with my mom to be able to take her car to get to the venues. My first show was Pennywise either in 1998 or 1999 in DC. I was in middle school but I remember feeling a huge connection as soon as I walked into the venue. The since of community within the “scene” in the DC/Baltimore area was amazing. “Unity” was a common anthem at these shows. If your brother or sister fell in a mosh pit, you got them up. We all watched over one another.
I got older. Money went to bills instead of shows. The hours I worked didn’t allow me to go out at night to see bands. My new friends weren’t necessarily into the same music anyway. That feeling and enjoyment phased out of my life.
As soon as I sat down at the first plenary session I thought, “This is it.” I finally found that sense of community I have been yearning for since high school. Yes, I have friends who stand with me and fight for social justice at home. Yes, many of my brothers and sisters at my shop are just as passionate about Unions as I am. This was different. Being in a room with 1000 people who share many of your beliefs is overwhelming. I would be lying if I said it was hard not to cry happy tears throughout the entire summit. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had as a young adult. I only wish there was more time to take additional workshops. There was so much to learn but not enough time to learn it all.
I have been inspired. I will share my experience with anyone who will listen. I am the future and the present.
Caniesha Seldon (AFGE staff)
Executive Board Member
"I have made so many friends over the years because of these type of events and this one just added to the long list of my family in the union.
I look at the Facebook newsfeed of people that I consider union family from all different industries and I get excited! Without this young worker movement I would have NEVER had FAMILY from all across the country in USW, IBEW, AFL-CIO (National, state and city) staff, APWU, AFGE, CWA, LCLAA, AFSCME, UFCW, AFA-CWA, Ironworkers, IATSE, Unite Here, APALA, GMP, Insulators, AFT... and so many more. And of course my home team OPEIU!
To Union graduates (those who have taken the struggle of the people to another place) to community labor partners to supporters of strengthening the middle class...
I am blessed and thankful!"
Ian Stublarec (IAFF staff)
DC Metro Council Delegate
"It was uplifting to see over 1000 union activists all in the same place at the same time planning and learning to help make future of the labor movement stronger."
OPEIU Local 2 (Union staffers)
Articles from the Next Up Summit
Article in Peoplesworld.com
Article in the DC Metro Council Newsletter
Article in the OPEIU International Newsletter
Video from the Next Up Summit
Full video of Next Up Summit plenaries
"Who's Streets? OUR STREETS!" (Courtesy of Erin Farmer)
"Chicago is a union town!" (Courtesy of Erin Farmer)
"Video Tribute for Local 2 Next Up" (Courtesy of Ash Newkirk)
Pictures courtesy of Ash Jayde Newkirk, Chelsea Bland,
Suzanne Fenech and Caniesha Seldon
Pictures from the Next Up Summit - Day 1
Pictures from the Next Up Summit - Day 2
Pictures from the Next Up Summit - Day 3
Pictures from Next Up Summit - Day 4