Activism 101—Les Leopold in Boone North Carolina, October 19th.

When: Thursday, October 19th. 12:30 PM to 2 PM

Where: HOW Space. 182 Howard St., Boone, North Carolina 28608

What: Facilitated by Les Leopold, co-founder of the Labor Institute in New York, this nuts and bolts workshop provides an opportunity to learn more about developing successful grassroots campaigns for social and economic justice.

+ learn skills to create effective campaigns and actions
+ explore the historical context for social justice movements and contemporary organizing
+ develop concrete tools you can use in your own work

Leopold is a veteran activist with over 40 years of dedication to labor rights as well as social and economic justice causes. His current book, “Runaway Inequality: An Activist Guide to Economic Justice”, is a solutions oriented guide to the wide ranging problems associated with economic inequality in the US. He is currently helping to build a national economic educational train-the-trainer program with unions and community groups. All proceeds from his current book go back into this campaign.

A report from our Wilmington NC appearances and training

Les was in Wilmington NC on September 19 and 20. George Vlasits, one of the event’s organizers, sent us a report about what went on:

On September 19th and 20th a coalition of 15 labor and community groups sponsored a book tour on Runaway Inequality by Les Leopold in Wilmington, North Carolina.

The two public events, one at the ILA Union Hall and the other at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington, drew 200 activists and students to hear Les’ presentation on “What Happened to the American Dream?” Les also spoke to a sociology class at UNCW and was interviewed on the student TV station at UNCW

The events were preceded by an intensive campaign that included a radio interview with Les on the local NPR station; an interview of two of the organizers on Wilmington’s black radio station; book sales for Runaway Inequality at meetings of participating groups; an op/ed piece in the local newspaper and an article in the UNCW student newspaper; a joint press release with the progressive candidate for the US House of Representatives, NC-D7 and use of social media. All the co-sponsors also publicized the events to their membership.

Among the attendees were several elected officials, announced candidates and local Democratic Party officials. With a signup list of over 100 expressing interest in finding out ways they can help spread the word, the organizers are planning a one day “train the trainers” workshop in conjunction with the CWA and State AFL-CIO in Wilmington sometime in November.

The SENC CLC is also funding edited videos of both a press conference held in Wilmington and the presentations at the two events.

Click here to see the press conference the afternoon before the training.

Here is the video of the whole training.

Train the Trainer: Open Oakland CA Session

While in Oakland for the CWA, USW, Sierra Club, Bluegreen Alliance trainings, in September 2017, RI also held its first training open to the community. 

While in Oakland we also held our first at-large train-the-trainer, open to anyone in the community. Most of the twenty-four participants came from the Bay area, a few from further afield in California, and three traveled all the way from Ashland, Oregon.

Participants were former, current, and new activists involved in organizations like The Incorruptibles, Equitable Food Initiative, Indivisible, Democratic Socialists of America, the Longshore & Warehouse Union, the National Nurses Union, or no organization at all.

Michael Bingham, one of the Oregonians, said, “The ‘Ashland OR Chapter’ is energized and ready to go to work. It’s wonderful to sit in a room of like-minded folks and get my hope tank filled. I had been running on empty for far too long. “

Labor-Environmental Train-the-Trainer: CWA, USW, Sierra Club, Bluegreen Alliance, in Oakland CA

This is a report about a Train the Trainer session held in Oakland CA in September 2017, with members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), United Steelworkers (USW), Sierra Club, and BlueGreen Alliance.

After a successful pilot workshop with labor and environmental activists earlier this year, Runaway returned to Oakland for a joint two-day train-the-trainer session. Twenty-six newly minted trainers from CWA, USW, the Sierra Club, and the BlueGreen Alliance will take the education back to their locals and chapters.

A coordinating team of all four organizations will pair up labor and environmental trainers to bridge the false divide between blue and green issues. Across the country and the world, the people most at risk from climate change are low-income and working people. And taking on climate change requires a movement that tackles runaway inequality and financial strip-mining. As the late Barry Commoner said, “Everything is connected to everything else.”


Training the Trainer: United Auto Workers (UAW) Region 9A Conference

This is a report on recent Runaway Inequality work at the UAW Region 9A Conference, in August 2017.

Runaway inequality trainers held workshops for all 120 participants at Region 9A’s annual conference. Trainers ran four simultaneous workshops, including our first ever in Spanish for conference delegates from Puerto Rico.

UAW Region 9A director Julie Kushner explained why she invited us. “Since the presidential election, I’ve been thinking we need to do a better job helping our members connect the dots between economic justice and political solutions. I heard about the ‘Runaway Inequality’ education module at the Working Families Party national meeting. I knew right away that the subject matter and format would be perfect for our leadership. This program not only educates and informs but incorporates action.”

Feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive for both the content and the workshop format: “I liked how everyone was encouraged to participate and take turns at being the speaker. I normally hate these kinds of break out group things but this was great.”

Kushner: “The Runaway Inequality program―with data, statistics and an action-driven agenda―was universally well-received. Our leaders who struggle with membership that vote against their own self-interest were the most enthusiastic participants. Everyone wants to bring this program to their plants and offices.”

Delegate Renford Whynes from UAW Local 2377 in Stamford, CT, put it more directly: “Education like this allows me to go out there with the zeal and desire to teach somebody. I’m on a mission.”

Wilmington North Carolina Events with Les Leopold

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, September 19, Les Leopold will give a presentation, What Happened to the American Dream, at the Wilmington ILA Union Hall, 1305 S. Fifth Ave. The public is invited.

At 5 p.m. on Wednesday, September 20, Leopold will reprise his presentation at UNCW, with a Q+A session to follow.

Daniel Buffington wrote in the Wilmington Star News this week:

“The title of Al Hunt’s Sept. 4 op/ed column, “Flat wages drive instability,” points out how American workers have been left out of economic growth over the past 40 years and the dangers that represents. Workers have not shared in the prosperity; corporate profits and the pay for CEOs have skyrocketed, but this increase has not trickled down to us.

Why? The major reason is that American workers have no bargaining power. Before the 1930s, workers had little power to improve their wages and working conditions. The result was runaway inequality, much like today. In the end, this was a major cause of the Great Depression.

Then two things happened. There was a huge surge in union organizing with the birth of the CIO, and Franklin Roosevelt won the 1932 election and delivered on his promise of a New Deal. Workers won the 40-hour work week, benefits like paid vacations, health insurance and pensions. The government passed Social Security and created huge public works programs.

Over the next 40 years, the U.S. saw the growth of the largest and most prosperous middle class in history. But starting in the 1970s, both the unions and the New Deal came under attack from conservatives. They claimed that cutting taxes for the wealthy, busting unions and doing away with New Deal programs would lead to rapid economic growth that would benefit everyone. It didn’t.

When workers lost their seat at the negotiating table and their political power in elections, the share of our wealth going to middle class went down, while the percentage of income going to the very wealthy went up. The result – runaway inequality.

Labor activist Les Leopold has written an excellent book describing the causes and consequences of “Runaway Inequality” and what we can do to reverse it.”