Please take a moment to read the following reports from three of your local lodge officers who attended the conference and wanted to share their experience with you.
From October 7-11, 3 EWR local members attended the Women, Young Worker and Human Rights Conference hosted in San Juan, Puerto Rico. San Juan is proud to represent members of local 2725 of the Southern Territory and as a whole represents over 50,000 members. Various leadership of San Juan came out to speak to us to include Carmen Yulin Cruz, Mayor of San Juan. The Mayor spoke about her beautiful city and the benefits union jobs have provided to the residents. As a proud union supporter she said, "When one union member falls down, ten stand up." That is the power of unions and the power of collective bargaining.
Amongst the various speakers, Dora Cervantes, General Secretary Treasurer, and Dave Ritchie, General Vice President, gave inspirational speeches that brought our members to their feet. They spoke of Human Rights issues and of their own experiences which truly made each person in the room feel like their issues matter and are being heard. "I stand before you as a proud gay man" was how GVP Ritchie concluded his speech and it was the first time he spoke publicly about being gay. AFL-CIO National President Richard Trumka spoke about the wage theft in America and corporate greed. He left us with a powerful message, "We rise together, or we don't rise at all. Get up together, yell together, do everything together until we get it done."
During the conference members had the option to take two of the various workshops offered. The two the EWR local took were organizing and leadership. The organizing workshop explained to members what the Railway Labor Act is and how it affects us as members. The RLA says that an employee has the right to select a union free from carrier interference. It also spoke of all the campaigns we are currently working on and focused on the Delta campaign. In the leadership workshop, we learned about what type of leader we are and how we use our skills within our current positions. It also had us focus on what our weaknesses are and how to strengthen them.
In addition to the workshops, we had a series of panel discussions with both members from our organization as well as members from affiliates and coalitions. With proud recognition, two of our own 2339 members, Monica Pasillas and Nicole Fears, participated and did an amazing job. The panels discussed various topics to include women and young worker challenges in the workplace, the LGBTQ community in the workplace and coalitions and the benefits of being a part of them.
Last week I had the privilege of attending the IAM Young Workers, Women's and Human Rights Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico alongside several other ExpressJet Flight Attendants. It was an opportunity to discuss issues that our LGBTQ, Women, and minority sisters and brothers are facing each and every day at work and in their communities. Throughout the entire week we heard from various speakers which included IAM President Tom Buffenbarger, IAM General SecretaryTreasurer Dora Cervantes as well as various members and leaders from Pride at Work, The AFL-CIO, The Ricky Martin Foundation, The Mayor of San Juan, PR, Carmen Yulin Cruz Soto, as well local lodge members and leaders.
In addition to the scheduled speakers throughout the conference there was time set aside for several panel discussions where members and leaders of various organizations had the opportunity to share there firsthand accounts of how they've overcome LGBTQ, Women's, and Human Rights issues. It gave us the tools and insight we could use to bring back to our communities and local lodges when or if we are faced with similar issues.
Workshops played a key role during the conference, it allowed members the opportunity to breakout into smaller groups where you could learn and discuss issues being faced by others on a more personal level. Some of the workshops offered throughout the week focused on Organizing in LGBTQ community, Leaderships Techniques, Learning and discussing the Labor Movement, Immigrant workers learning the right tools to succeed, Using Social media outlets to organize, and Women's issues. I was fortunate enough to take part in two workshop sessions during the conference, one being "What's my leadership Style" and the second being "Organizing to Move the World"
What's my leadership style focused who you are as a leader, what’s your "go to" leadership style. Recognizing all your leadership styles and honing in on them and knowing when to use them. As a group we discussed different types of leadership styles ranging from being a more strategic leader, or visionary, task focused, creative, independent, and an inspiring leader. The workshop gave you the opportunity to learn more about the type of leader you are and the type of leader you didn't know you were.
Organizing to move the world focused on the tools and steps needed to win a voice in an non-union workplace. All the benefits of organizing and being a part of a union workforce which can create better wages, work rules, and safer working conditions. We learned about the IAM Delta campaign and all the resources and work that has gone into organizing Delta Airlines Flight Attendants. We discussed the obstacles and challenges one can face when organizing a group of non-union workers and how to overcome those challenges and to continue the fight for a voice.
The Humanitarian Project brought members to one of the 8 communities adjacent to Martin Pena Channel where over 30,000 residents reside in. Residents are exposed to flood waters contaminated with fecal matter when it rains in these communities, rain mixed with sewage enters homes, schools, and places of business. The Martin Pena Channel often floods causing major health risk for community members who refuse to leave their home where most have lived in since birth. No Human should live in these conditions and its our time to help raise awareness for these communities, visit https://g8incpr.wordpress.com to learn more on how to help and have your voice be heard to help our sisters and brothers in San Juan.
I had the privilege to represent you at the IAM Women, Young Machinists, and Human Rights Conference as your Human Rights Chair. What impressed me the most were the diversity of the attendees and the various topics of the panel discussions. These topics centered on current issues that affect all working people and members of labor unions.
A representative from the Rickey Martin Foundation spoke to us about human trafficking in Puerto Rico and around the world. Human trafficking is a form of slavery with illegal smuggling and trading of people for forced labor or sexual exploitation. The U.S. Justice Department estimates that 17,500 people are trafficked into this country every year but the true figure could be higher because of the large numbers of undocumented immigrants. Those being trafficked include young children, teenagers, men and women and can be domestic citizens or foreign nationals. If you are interested in learning more about human trafficking there is an online course you can take free of charge. Please contact me for details. Please take a moment to view this short video from the Rickey Martin Foundation about human trafficking.
For our humanitarian services project we boarded buses and toured neighborhoods affected by flooding from the Martin Pena Channel. Residents in this area experience flooding with contaminated water. People who live along the channel are more prone to gastrointestinal diseases compared to the rest of the Puerto Rican population. Aqua Mala is a short documentary about the Martin Pena Channel and what the communities are doing. Please see Manny Rivero’s report for a link to how you can help support the dredging project.
A panel discussion led by Carmen Berkley who serves as the Director of Human and Civil Rights of the AFL-CIO titled “Am I Satisfied” covered where we are in the labor movement and our political environment. Panelist and IAM President Tom Buffenbarger said “we’ve got a lot work to do to become a country of inclusiveness and respect.” Panelist and Get Equal Co-Director Angela Peoples talked about how LGBTQ people need more than access to marriage licenses to be equal. Panelist and Manager of Government Affairs for the California Immigrant Policy Center spoke of the need to elect candidates who will move immigration reform forward. Panelist Jessica Reeves, Vice President of Voto Latino talked about the impact of the Latino vote and how DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parental Accountability) leaves six million undocumented immigrants out.
Another great discussion titled “Building a Better, Bolder Labor Movement” included representatives from several constituency groups highlighting the need for collaboration and solidarity to achieve results for all working people. Some of the groups represented were the National Coalition of Black Civic Participation, A. Phillip Randolph Institute, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Council FIRE, Pride at Work, Coalition of Labor Union Women, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, and Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. Employment discrimination was a common thread throughout the groups and other topics included wage theft and the need to organize for better treatment, benefits, and wages. For example, you can be fired for being gay in over half of US States. Having a union contract is the best way to avoid many forms of discrimination and to curb wage theft.
In closing I thank you for your time and if you have any questions about the conference or would like to get involved in human rights issues please contact me. Don’t forget to contribute to our toiletries drive for the Hetrick-Martin Institute.