Labor Coachella | The nation

Reading about an event you didn’t attend isn’t always fun. After all, now it’s over, and you missed it. And unless you were there and felt the passion, why do you care who attended and what was said?

This is the challenge of reporting on the Labor Notes 2022 conference held last weekend in Chicago. Yes, there were thousands of basic union members and a growing number of unorganized workers from across the country. Yes, excellent speakers too: Senator Bernie Sanders, newly elected Teamsters President Sean O’Brien, and Stacy Davis Gates, President-elect of the Chicago Teachers Union

But the real question is what, from the conference, will have lasting significance for labor activists – and beyond – for the progressive movement as a whole?

To answer this question, you need to understand the role Labor Notes has played over the past 40 years in “ put the movement back into the labor movement.” What began in the late 1970s as a monthly magazine quickly began publishing books and hosting national conferences. In the 2000s, he began organizing local schools of troublemakers organized by activists in their own towns. Labor Notes is an invaluable network that connects workers from different unions, worker centers, industries, communities and countries to build the movement from the bottom up.

Speaking at the Saturday banquet, Jesse Sharkey, the current president of the activist Chicago Teachers’ Union, summed it up well: “We trained our activists at Labor Notes. This is where we recruited key employees and learned new skills, ideas and approaches. And he pointed out that the magazine and biannual conferences are what connected him and hundreds of others to the radical traditions of industrial unionism.

Labor Notes has been that lasting bond for me. By the time I was a young radical organizer in the late 70s and early 80s, many left-wing labor activists were long gone: expelled during the McCarthy era. At the time, I wasn’t exactly embraced by union leaders; in fact, most were downright hostile. To subscribe to Working notes was a lifeline of practical organizing tips and inspiration that exposed me to other like-minded union activists and created a community of fellow travelers.

This is probably why I have attended all but one of the Labor Notes conferences since its first meeting over 40 years ago.

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