Workers United Convention
March 8 – 10, 2017
Gary Bonadonna Jr.
The Workers United Convention in Philadelphia was a reminder of how far the workers’ movement has come and how far we have yet to go. We were treated to a video of our country’s first union members who came from the most marginalized members in our society during a time when they had little support from the government or their employers. The union was formed to help improve their lives whether it was by negotiating better wages or by forming a bank that would secure their finances and give them home loans. These loans were given to those who were rejected by banks based on race and socio-economic level. At the Rochester Regional Joint Board, we are motivated to continue that spirit for our generation of working people.
We brought 20 delegates and staff to Philadelphia this year to represent the Rochester Regional Joint Board. For most of our group, this was their first experience attending a Workers United convention. As we all work in our respective fields and businesses, sometime it is difficult to see beyond our own work and struggles. It can feel like we are fighting our fights alone. What the delegates saw was what I have always seen: that we are not alone. There are workers across this country and across this world who are dealing with the same struggles that we are in our communities.
We met nail salon workers, fighting for fair wages and safe working conditions. We met laundry workers, fighting for the right to organize. We met gym workers, fighting for fair wages and job security in case of injury.
We heard from a group called the Nabisco 600 who were protesting the 600 jobs that went overseas to Mexico after they closed their plant in Chicago. This happened after they took $90 Million in subsidies from the Illinois taxpayers. This is just one of many examples of the abandoning of workers and communities to take the jobs and investments to a country where workers are more vulnerable to exploitation. The Nabisco employees’ union is fighting right now for their workers’ job security.
We met garment workers of Majestic Athletics in Easton, PA who were facing an unsure future when the licensing rights to baseball uniforms manufacturing were awarded to a new company, Under Armour. Would they keep the jobs in the USA or would they take the work oversees where workers would be paid poverty wages and forced to endure unsafe working conditions? I’m proud to tell you that our Workers United voices were heard and since the convention, Under Armour has promised to keep these jobs in the USA.
We keep a keen eye to what is happening around us because we know that the fortunes of our fellow workers are tied to us all; we are all interconnected.
I am so excited to take this energy from the convention and work together towards improving conditions for all working people. This will include organizing new workers. This will include campaigning and voting for local government officials and representatives who will best represent the interests and needs of our families. We have endorsed James Sheppard for Rochester City Mayor in the coming elections, and he announced his candidacy in our own union hall this January. Let’s keep the energy and momentum going! As we are reminded everyday by our national leaders, we can’t turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to what is happening to our working brothers and sisters. Let’s energize each other and keep each other engaged in our fight to improve our workers’ rights.
– Gary Bonnadonna, Jr.
Photos from the convention: