CCSF Labor Studies Conference Features Organizers Making a Difference

Over a hundred organizers and students of organizing from a wide array of unions, community and educational groups attended the Organize! – The Art and Science of Organizing conference at City College of San Francisco last month. The all-day conference was hosted by the college’s Labor and Community Studies Department and brought participants together to share lessons learned from each other’s organizing campaigns. The conference was English-Spanish bilingual throughout.

National labor educator Bill Fletcher, Jr. called for unions and community-based workers’ centers to organize for all working people. He was followed by presentations on union contract campaigns by AFT 2121, COCAL, SEIU 87 and UNITE HERE Local 2. A panel on union organizing drives was next, led by ILWU 6, SEIU 1021 and Local 2. Member-organizers were a prominent feature of these examples of effective mobilization. This included a moving presentation by Donal Mahon, a worker-organizer with an ILWU Recycling Center campaign, who said she wanted a union so she could recycle, and not be treated like, garbage.

The conference broke for lunch and a musical presentation by the Labor Chorus. Two more panels followed. The first explored day labor and domestic worker organizing with the San Francisco Day Labor Program and La Colectiva de Mujeres/the Women’s Collective. These panelists placed strong emphasis on the fight for immigration and domestic worker legal reform.

The final panel of the day discussed labor-community coalitions, with speakers from Jobs with Justice, the Sonoma Living Wage Coalition and the Save City College Coalition. These presenters stressed the common interests of unions, communities and schools in the fight for social and economic justice.

The conference concluded with a spirited march along Ocean Avenue for immigrant workers’ rights and full funding for City College, led by the percussion group, The Troublemakers’ Union.

Additional participants included members of IATSE 784, ATU 1574 and Bakery 125, the CCSF Department Chair Council and a number of Save City College activists. Participants earned a Certificate of Completion, and all agreed it was a Saturday well spent.

Labor and Community Studies will use the knowledge gained from the conference to strengthen its organizer-training curriculum. The department can lead trainings of three to eighteen hours for unions and workers’ centers on internal and external organizing, as well as representation and labor history. For more information on these classes and on the department’s certificate program, please contact me at wshields@ccsf.edu or 415-550-4473.