30 Years Celebrating Art &amp; Culture of the Labor Movement

30 Years Celebrating Art & Culture of the Labor Movement

Western Workers Labor Heritage Festival Celebrates Heartbeat of the Labor Movement

By Rachel Warino

For 30 years, a group of tireless volunteers have dedicated countless hours, time, resources, and energy to providing one of the most welcoming spaces for workers on the West Coast: The Western Workers Labor Heritage Festival. This past festival, held on Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend was no exception.

Over 200 festival attendees from around the world came to Burlingame, CA for one last hurrah to celebrate the art, culture, and heritage that has always helped to keep the labor movement alive. Held at three union halls over MLK weekend, the festival commemorates the social justice and economic change that Dr. King so firmly endorsed. For three days, volunteers helped coordinate workshops, presentations, film viewings, and arts exchanges and celebrated anything and everything could be interpreted as an artistic expression of worker's voices. Workshops on Saturday and Sunday ranged from providing attendees with guidance on how to draw political cartoons with Mike Konopacki to providing space to discuss how the Black Lives Matter Movement and the Labor Movement can work together for social justice. Arts exchanges on Friday and Saturday gave folks and labor choruses a chance to share their art with an engaged and fun audience. The festival also included a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. featuring Elyse Bryant and the DC Labor Chorus and Professor Louie.  On Sunday, young workers honored the organizing committee for three decades of commitment to the Festival.

The final concert ended the event with a bang featuring performers from across the country. Keeping with the spirit of the festival, hats were passed to raise nearly $2,500 for workers in need. This year the funds went to Taylor Farms workers from Tracy who continue to experience unsafe working conditions and irresponsible management for over two years.

Check out the video below for the final song featured at the concert: Solidarity Forever. You can also visit the Festival’s website follow the hashtag #wwhlf16 to see even more videos and pictures from the weekend.

While this was the last year for the original organizing committee to put on the Festival, there’s a group of young workers (including myself) who want to keep this going. The spirit of Festival is too good to let go. For those of you interested in helping to keep this Festival going, please feel free to email me: rwarino@calaborfed.org