By MIKE LEE
More than 200 enthusiastic Clerical-Administrative Employees Local 1549 union members crowded DC 37 union headquarters to discuss critical issues in the current anti-labor era and the nation’s political future in Election 2020.
“Taking Action: 2020,” the theme of the Feb. 1 conference held by Clerical-Administrative Employees Local 1549 explored advocacy and action on key issues, labor and community activism, voter registration and 2020 U.S. Census outreach.
The conference was organized by 2nd Vice President Ralph Palladino and included speeches by elected officials U.S. Rep. Max Rose, of the 11th District in Staten Island and Brooklyn, and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who exhorted the audience to take action and to move forward with confidence as the union gears up for the all-important 2020 elections.
Local leaders urged attendees to redouble workplace education efforts and member advocacy. “We have to push it out there that the union is an investment,” said Local 1549 President Eddie Rodriguez. “Without a union, there would be no hard-won benefits such as sick time, health insurance, a pension. Management did not give you these benefits. The union fought to win them” at the bargaining table.
Alma Roper, the local’s executive vice president, emphasized the importance of developing a strong presence of union women activists. “Start picking up the microphone and speaking up for what you want. This is the only way you are going to build power—because we run this city,” Roper said.
A round table discussed included a diverse coalition of community advocates, including Tenants and Neighbors, the Urban Justice Center, the New York Union Child Care Coalition, and the Commission on Public Health Systems that delivered powerful, inspiring messages explaining their advocacy work in these uncertain times and what needs to be done to seize the initiative.
Labor and community activists Ricardo Reed, Yolette Green, and Melissa Tirado shared their experiences helping members in need. Reed, a shop steward at Bellevue Hospital, explained: “At the core, a strong activist needs to be strong within ourselves in order empower others.”
The DC 37 Political Action Dept.’s Savian Gainer explained the 2020 U.S Census role in funding services, and Chrystle Bullock invited attendees to join PEOPLE, the union’s voluntary political action fund.
“This annual conference is Local 1549’s chance to review political and legislative priorities, to educate shop stewards, chapter chairs and activists on the union’s agenda and to give them tools to share the information with their coworkers,” Palladino said.