California Labor Makes a Splash at Netroots Nation in San Jose

The 8th annual Netroots Nation conference took place last week in San Jose, drawing more than 2,500 activists, leaders, field and online organizers to the Bay Area for the preeminent nationwide conference for cutting-edge progressives making a difference. In recent years, the conference has expanded far beyond its “Netroots” roots, and now it serves as an annual gathering of some of the most effective and notable progressive change-makers and leaders in the country.

The California Labor Federation was pleased to be a first-time sponsor of this year’s conference, where we welcomed attendees from all over the country to the Bay Area with some delicious, union-made chocolate from Ghirardelli, manufactured locally by members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) union. From our booth in the exhibit hall (located next to a union fire truck and a Made-in-America arcade – truly a Netroots experience) we also embraced the opportunity to spread the word about closing the Walmart Loophole, and we gathered dozens of signatures in support of our effort to stop the Koch Brothers from taking over the LA Times.

California Labor was actively involved in numerous panels and caucuses throughout the conference. On Thursday, we joined the California Caucus and the Labor Caucus, and California labor leaders and activists also participated in a number of other workshops on issues ranging from justice for hotel workers to CEQA to green energy jobs. On Friday, Labor Federation Legislative Director Angie Wei joined a panel discussion on “Taking Poverty into Our Own Hands” along with Betty Yee from the California State Board of Equalization, Assemblymember Holly J. Mitchell and several policy experts. And on Saturday, the Labor Federation sponsored an incisive panel that explored the cutting-edge microtargeting technology that lead to Labor’s huge victory of Prop 32 in 2012. The panelists, including the Strategy Group’s Doug Herman (one of the architects of the highly effective program) data guru Seiji Carpenter of David Binder Research, field program leader Tracy Zeluff of Groundworks Campaigns and online outreach maven Patton Price from Bully Pulpit Interactive, detailed how our advanced microtargeting program, coupled with intensive message research and a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach, allowed us to connect with and persuade hundreds of thousands of traditionally difficult-to-reach voters, the vast majority of whom were under age 35 (check out the PowerPoint presentation here).

California Labor wasn’t the only prominent presence from the movement at Netroots this year. The AFL-CIO and Working America sponsored a “Hug a Union Thug” booth and gave away union-made beer. The International Association of Firefighters gave attendees a taste of what it’s like to be a firefighter with Fire Ops 101 (participants actually got to use the “jaws of life” to rescue a mannequin from a burning car). UNITE HERE hosted #BaconFest on the last day of the conference. Leaders and members from LIUNA brought their mobile training unit to the Netroots Food Truck Festival. Leaders and organizers from CWA, AFT, UNITE HERE, AFSCME, UFCW and more joined panels and trainings throughout the conference.  

As a three-time Netroots veteran, It’s exciting to see the Labor Movement’s presence continue to grow and evolve. As a progressive online activist, it’s truly thrilling to meet, connect and hear from allies and partners who are breaking ground and making change every day. And as a Netroots nerd, I'm already counting down to Netroots Nation 2014 in Detroit!

Check out more highlights from the 2013 conference and register for 2014 at www.netrootsnation.com