The 2023 Washington State Labor Council AFL–CIO convention, held July 18–20 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Tukwila, created space to celebrate the many organizing and contract campaign victories across Washington state.
Delegates, including 10 from WSNA, also heard from a variety of speakers, and adopted resolutions on issues that will chart the course of Washington’s labor movement in the years to come.
WSNA members served on several convention committees. David Keepnews, WSNA Executive Director, served as co-chair of the Credentials Committee.
Support for unions in the United States is at a near-all-time high. Seventy-one percent of Americans indicated support for labor unions in a Gallup poll released August 30, 2022, the highest percentage since 1965.
Still, some of the most profitable Washington-based corporations are using illegal tactics to thwart the will of employees to form unions. Convention delegates heard from union leaders and members who are leading these organizing drives.
Chris Smalls, a former warehouse worker for Amazon on Staten Island, led a walkout at the start of the pandemic in 2020 to protest working conditions. He was fired the same day. A leaked memo released a few days later by a top Amazon lawyer describing him as “not smart or articulate” was the fuel to get him to organize, according to an NPR interview.
After being fired, he started the Amazon Labor Union with Derrick Palmer, who still worked in the warehouse. They led the first successful union campaign at Amazon, a grassroots effort funded by donations at GoFundMe, that met incredible resistance from Amazon.
Teresa Romero, president of the United Farm Workers, is the first Latina and first immigrant woman to become president of a national union in the United States. Romero was joined by mushroom workers from Ostrom/Windmill Farms in Sunnyside, Washington, as she spoke about the illegal treatment of workers by their employers and their ongoing fight for union recognition. Ostrom’s discriminatory actions resulted in a successful $3.4 million lawsuit brought by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
In addition, the 2023 Washington State Labor Convention was the first convention under the leadership of President April Sims and Secretary–Treasurer Cherika Carter, a leadership team elected in 2022 with support from WSNA. Sims and Carter are the first AFL–CIO state federation leadership team led by Black women. Carter is also the first woman and first Black woman to be elected president of an AFL–CIO state federation.