Building Unity To Defeat Union-Busting And Concessions: Report On Emergency Labor Meeting

Emergency Labor Network

Ninety-six union leaders and activists from 26 states and from a broad cross-section of the labor movement gathered at the Laborers Local 310 Hall in Cleveland on March 4-5, 2011, in response to an invitation sent out in January urging them to “explore together what we can do to mount a more militant and robust fight-back campaign to defend the interests of working people.” [See excerpts from Letter of Invitation and list of endorsers of the meeting below.]

Three weeks prior to the Emergency Labor Meeting (ELM), unionists and community and student activists in Wisconsin unleashed a resistance movement against Governor Scott Walker’s union-busting and concessionary attacks that in a short time has breathed new life into the labor movement. The sustained occupation of the State Capitol and the sustained mobilizations in the streets — including 7,000 people who marched on March 3 “Against All Concessions for Workers” at the initiative of National Nurses United and 50,000 people who rallied on March 5 — have galvanized working people across the country.

Participants in the ELM took full note of the new situation and of the grave dangers to the U.S. labor movement and to workers’ and democratic rights posed by Governor Walker’s attacks. They pledged to make the fight against union-busting and the budget cuts/concessions in Wisconsin the centerpiece of an emergency action plan centered on two national days of action called by the labor movement:

  • March 12: Participants pledged to go back to their unions and workers’ organizations to promote the March 12 Day of Action called by the Wisconsin AFL-CIO. Brother David Newby, President-Emeritus of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, attended the ELM and relayed the proposal from his state federation that all unionists and labor activists in Wisconsin and neighboring states mobilize in Madison on March 12, with labor-led solidarity actions the same day in cities across the country.

  • April 4: Participants welcomed the call issued by Larry Cohen, International President of the Communication Workers of America (CWA) to organize on April 4, the anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a “not-business-as-usual” Nationwide Day of Action at workplaces and communities across the country in support of labor rights. This call has since been supported by the AFL-CIO Executive Board, which is urging “movement-wide dramatic actions” on this day.

Participants agreed to go back to their unions and communities to promote broad support for this April 4 Day of Action in all ways deemed appropriate by unions and community organizations on the ground, including, where possible, industrial actions. They also urged support for these actions around demands that link the struggle in defense of labor rights to the struggle against budget cuts and concessions, and that point to solutions to the federal and state budget deficits, including taxing the rich and the corporations, cutting the war budget, and creating 27 million full-time jobs through a massive public works program (which could be launched immediately and without raising the U.S. budget by a penny with a $1 trillion “Bridge Loan” from the Federal Reserve).

To promote these actions, participants pledged to go back to their cities to build “We Are All Wisconsin!” committees of labor and community activists.

Also, in the event the Walker bill is approved by the Wisconsin legislature, the state’s labor movement has announced that it is prepared to launch a recall campaign designed to remove from office seven members of the Wisconsin Senate. The Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, in fact, has already initiated a fundraising campaign for this purpose. [To send a donation, or for updates on this campaign, go to or call             414-771-0700      .]

In Ohio, a bill to deny collective-bargaining rights to public employees is likely to pass in the General Assembly. Ohio labor and its allies are already gearing up to get the bill rescinded through a referendum. To qualify for a referendum for the ballot in Ohio, supporters must gather about 230,000 valid signatures within 90 days after the bill passes and is signed by the governor. The Ohio labor movement is organizing to gather the necessary number. The bill will not be implemented for 90 days regardless, but if the requisite number of signatures is submitted and validated, the bill will be held in abeyance pending the November 2011 election. A bill passed by the Ohio General Assembly in 1997 to gut workers’ compensation was never implemented because of a successful labor-led campaign to rescind it through a referendum vote.

Participants in the Emergency Labor Meeting discussed a “Perspectives” document submitted by the ELM Organizing Committee. Changes and additions were made to the text, which will serve as the framework for future efforts undertaken by a Continuations Committee that will emanate from the meeting. [See Perspectives document.]

Participants also took a stand urging the ELM Continuations Committee, in collaboration with the fighting unions and community organizations, to consider the possibility of organizing in the not-too-distant future a broader and open Labor-Community Conference structured around the points included in the ELM Perspectives document.

Throughout the four panel discussions of the meeting, participants submitted a whole host of proposals and ideas aimed at bolstering the capacity of the labor movement to assert its independence and fight back against the employers’ and government’s offensive. These will be incorporated into a “Tool Box” on the new website that will be set up by the ELM Continuations Committee.

For example, proposals on how best to organize labor-community coalitions, with reports on activities of the “We Are All Wisconsin!” committees in different cities, will be included in the Tool Box. Also included will be articles and proposals geared to helping to educate union members about the roots of the current economic and financial crisis from a working-class perspective. These are just two of the many sections that will be included in the Tool Box. Participants entrusted the new Continuations Committee with the task of publishing as many of these texts as possible in Spanish and other languages, to strengthen the ties with immigrant workers.

Participants left the meeting encouraged by the new fight-back movement in the country and by the necessary contribution to this movement that this ELM effort can provide. All unionists and activists interested in working with the ELM Continuations Committee to advance the goals contained in the ELM Perspectives document should write to <>.


Excerpt From Letter Of Invitation To The Emergency Labor Meeting

“We want this meeting to address how we can spur more effective action by the labor movement to win the creation of millions of new jobs at the expense of Wall Street and the rich; a moratorium on home foreclosures; defense of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid;  protection of pensions; closing the widening gap in economic and social inequality; enactment of the Employee Free Choice Act; redirection of war dollars to meet human needs; and generating federal support for state and city governments that are poised to lay off even more teachers and other public employees, support that includes allocating sufficient resources to ensure that ALL of our children have access to quality public schools and affordable higher education.”

Endorsers Of Cleveland Emergency Labor Meeting

Donna Dewitt,
President, South Carolina AFL-CIO

David Newby,
President Emeritus. Wisconsin State AFL-CIO*

Jos Williams,
President, Washington Metro Council, AFL-CIO

Ken Riley,
President, International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) Local 1422

Karen Lewis,
President, Chicago Teachers Union (AFT) Local 1*

Henry Nicholas,
President, National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, AFSCME

Jim Savage,
President, USW Local 10-1

Lew Moye,
President, St Louis Chapter,
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists

Eduardo Quintana,
President, International Association of Machinists (IAM) Local Lodge 933*

David Poklinkoski,
President and Business Manager, IBEW Local 2304

Monadel Herzallah,
President, Arab American Union Members Council – USLAW-affiliate

Dominick Patrignani,
President IUE-CWA Local 81359

Jeff Crosby,
President, North Shore Labor Council

Traven Leyshon,
President, Green Mountain Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO

Ron Dicks,
International Vice President, International Federation of Professional and Technical Employees (IFPTE)*

Erin McKee,
President, Charleston Central Labor Council*

Tim Paulson,
Executive Director, San Francisco Labor Council

San Francisco Labor Council,

Laborers Local 483

GEO 6300 (IFT-AFT).

Portland Jobs with Justice

Sonia Ivany,
National Vice-President, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, President, New York City, LCLAA

Andrea L. Delgado,
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA)

Dennis Serrette,
Education Director, Communications Workers of America*

Tom Leedham,
Secretary-Treasurer, Teamsters Local 206

Ashaki Binta,
Field Orgnizer, UE*

Sal Rosselli
Interim President, National Union of Healthcare Workers*

Laborers Local 310

Gladys McKenzie
Field Representative, AFSCME Council 5 (Minnesota)*

Phil Qualy
Minnesota State Legislative Director, United Transportation Union*

Mark Dudzic,
National Coordinator, Labor Campaign for Single-Payer Health Care*

Saladin Muhammad,
Member of Black Workers For Justice and Coordinator of UE Local150’s International Worker Justice Campaign


Jesse Sharkey,
Vice President, Chicago Teachers Union (AFT)
Local 1* –

Virginia Robinson, former Treasurer and Reporting Secretary, Cleveland AFL- CIO; retired member, Steelworkers Union

Bill Henning, Vice President, CWA Local 1180\

Gabriel Prawl, ILWU Local 52 ,Executive Co-chair African American Longshore Coalition –  Eduardo Rosario, Grievance Representative, AFSCME Local 375, New York City*

John Wagner, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Tri-County Regional Labor Council, AFL-CIO*

Jan D. Pierce, retired Vice President, CWA District One

Ed Sadlowski, Staff Representative, Wisconsin Council 40, AFSCME, AFL-CIO*; Member, Local 938; membership in Council 40 Field and Support Staff Union

Mary Prophet,
Co-Chair, Ca Teachers’ Association Peace & Justice Caucus; KPFA Community Advisory Board; Steering Committee, USLAW*

Jerry Tucker,
former Intl UAW Exec Board Member;
Center for Labor Renewal Co-Founder

David Riehle,
United Transportation Union Local 650 Vice-Chairman; past local Chairman 1989-2007

Chris Silvera,
Teamsters Local 808

Sandy Eaton, RN;
Chair, National Nurses United Legislative Council*

Dr. Peter Rachleff, professor of history, Macalaster College; author and researcher on U.S. labor, immigration and African American history

Mary Nichols-Rhodes, LPN,
Ohio coordinator, Progressive Democrats of America

Dean Gunderson,
Minnesota Association of Professional Employees Region 5 Director and past local president

Gregory Cendana,
Executive Director, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO

Bill Fletcher, Jr.,
Center for Labor Renewal;

Jim Lafferty,
UAW Legal Service Workers; Director, National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles

Dr. Jack Rasmus
Member, American Federation of Teachers University Council, University of California Berkley; Former National First Vice President, National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981; former local union Vice President and Business Representative, CWA Local 9415 and SEIU Local 715

Alan Benjamin,
Executive Committee, San Francisco Labor Council; Co-Convenor, Workers Emergency Recovery Campaign

Jim Hamilton,
State Executive Committee,
Missouri AFT*

Carolyn Park
Steward, AFSCME Local 232*

Mike Carano
Member, Teamsters Union Local 348, member, State Council, Single-Payer Action Network Ohio (SPAN Ohio)*

  Bill Leumer
Former President, International Association of Machinists Local 565*; Co-Convenor, Workers Emergency Recovery Campaign

Russell Bannan
LCLAA Denver Metro Communication Coordinator; Colorado Jobs with Justice Executive Board; Colorado Young Workers Steering Committee

Bill Onasch
Retired former vice president, ATU Local 1287*

Steve Early
labor journalist, lawyer, and former CWA International Representative; author of Embedded with Organized Labor and The Civil Wars in U.S. Labor

Dan La Botz
National Writers Union/UAW*

Clarence Thomas,
Executive Board, ILWU Local 10

Lenny Potash,
Co-Chair Labor United for Universal Healthcare*

Fred Hirsch,
Executive Board Member, Plumbers & Fitters Local 393; Delegate to the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council and to the Santa Clara and San Benito Counties Building & Construction Trades Council* – 

Dan Kaplan,
Executive Secretary, AFT Local 1493, the San Mateo (CA) Community College Federation of Teachers*

Ann Robertson,
Executive Board Member, California Faculty Association – San Francisco State University – Delegate to San Francisco Labor Council*

Allan Fisher
Executive Board Member, AFT Local 2121 – Delegate to San Francisco Labor Council*

Marc Rich
United Teachers Los Angeles delegate to Los Angeles County Federation of Labor*

Paul Bigman,
Business Representative, IATSE Local 15; Treasurer, Washington State Jobs with Justice*

Harry Kelber,
The World of Labor

Genevieve Morse,
member, Massachusetts Teachers Association, shop steward in the Classified Staff Union at the University of Massachusetts Boston and elected delegate to 2010 annual MTA conference

Steve Edwards,
President, AFSCME Local 2858, Chicago, IL and Steering Committee member, Public Workers Unite!

Ira Grupper,
labor journalist, Louisville KY

Phyliss Walker, President, AFSCME Local 3800 (clerical workers) at the University of Minnesota

Muata Greene,
Labor Liaison for EMT’s,
Paramedics & Inspectors of FDNY

Lee Sustar,
Member, National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981; labor journalist

Ron Lare, UAW Local 600, former Local-wide Executive Board member

Bernie Hesse,
Political Director and Director of Special Projects, UFCW 1189 (St Paul MN)*

Randy Raskin,
Vice General Chairman, United Transportation Union General Committee of Adjustment (UP-former C&NW) St Paul/Minneapolis*

SEIU Local 49
(Portland, OR)

Jerry Gordon,
Retired International Representative, United Food and Commercial
Workers Union*;

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