Earlier this month we had the distinct honor of representing ATPAM at the IA Young Workers Conference held in beautiful Portland, OR. We were welcomed with open arms by members of the International as well as locally by members of Local 28. To say the energy and excitement surrounding thing event was palpable would be doing all involved a disservice. We were treated to 2 1/2 days of lively presentations, engaging round-table conversations that lingered well into the evening hours.
Kicking off the conference was Elizabeth Shuler the current Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO. She applauded our efforts as young members of the union and encouraged us to get active and stay active to insure a healthy future for the union. She shared stories from across the nation of the work that is being done, all in the name of organized labor. It was an exciting way to kick off the conference.
Following Ms. Shuler was Joe Hartnett who gave us a comprehensive overview of the history of the IA. This was not only a great history lesson, but also shone a light on the many women (yes women, local 794 organized in 1945 where all of the NY camera operators were women) and men who came before all of us. Together the attendees represented all 13 districts of the IA and that is truly a testament to the strength of those who paved the way. At the end of the first day we all gathered at Kelly’s Olympian, a local 28 favorite watering hole, for fellowship and some more “get to know you” time.
Day two kicked off with a two-part session co-lead by professor Bob Bussle from the University of Oregon’s Labor Education & Research department, as well as, Elana Guiney who is the Oregon AFL-CIO Legislative & Communications director. The two helped us break down stereotypes of how unions are perceived, what being part of a union means to all of us, and most importantly how to “talk union” with confidence and persuasiveness. We all walked away with valuable skills after these sessions.
After lunch at Lardo’s (AMAZING SANDWICHES) we hunkered down for COMET Training again led by Joe Hartnett. COMET Training, Continuing Organizing Membership Education Training, was the crux of the conference. We discussed the value of being one of many, the strength of collective bargaining, learned about organizing at the local and national levels and the value of finding strength in numbers. This was the perfect way to end day two. By now we had made some good friends, and these COMET sessions solidified the importance of maintaining these working relationships.
Our 3rd and final day began with Tom Chamberlain, President of the Oregon AFL-CIO. Like the inspiring speakers before him, he did not disappoint with kicking off day three with excitement and energy! Our final session was led by Leah Okin, Business Representative from IA Local 764. She helped us all set goals for ourselves in the coming months and years for how we plan to remain engaged and active members of the International. Molly Katchpole, Outreach Coordinator for the IA communications department shared her own stories of activism and drove home the idea that one person can make a difference and one person with the backing of many can truly move mountains.
Thank you again for sponsoring us in Portland. We met members from all over the country (even Hawaii and Alaska) and Canada which was thrilling, and walked away feeling like a member of one giant united family.
Marya Peters and Michael Composto
Marya Peters and Michael Composto