By Don McIntosh
Over 200 rank-and-file union activists were welcomed to United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 290 training center April 8 for Portland’s third biennial “Troublemakers School.”
The spirited gathering was a day of networking and panel presentations organized by the magazine Labor Notes to — as the publication’s masthead puts it — “put the movement back in the labor movement.”
“As a worker, the second you ask about your rights, they call you a troublemaker,” explained Labor Notes director Mark Brenner. “That’s why we call ourselves troublemakers.”
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The day’s keynote speaker was rank-and-file AFSCME member Jovanka Beckles, who is vice mayor of Richmond, California, thanks to a union-backed coalition known as the Richmond Progressive Alliance. Richmond is a racially diverse blue collar city of 100,000, best known in the Bay Area as the location of a Chevron refinery. Over the last decade, the Richmond Progressive Alliance has successfully challenged the city’s traditional power structure, electing slates of City Council candidates who refused corporate money, winning a rent control ballot measure, increasing taxes on Chevron, and experimenting with the power of eminent domain to rescue homeowners from underwater mortgages. All that came about because residents, with union support, got organized.
“Isn’t doing something better than sitting around watching cable news?” Beckles said.
[MORE: See more photos from the event here.]
AT THE LABOR NOTES TROUBLEMAKERS SCHOOL: