Summer School and Sisterhood

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DC 37 members gather with other sisters from unions that are also affiliated with DC 37’s national union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, at the summer school session of the United Association for Labor Education at Hofstra University on Long Island.


Women comprise more than half of DC 37’s membership. And one of our union’s highest priorities is to support the ascent of women within the ranks of leadership and activism.

Toward that end, a contingent of DC 37 women attended a week-long boot camp,  hosted and coordinated by the City University of New York School of Labor and Urban Studies, at Hofstra University,  , where they honed their union-building skills.

“It really motivated me to continue encouraging as many people as possible to get involved in the labor movement,” said Dept. of Education Employees Local 372 member Trina Prior.

The DC 37 activists who attended are all graduates of the Women’s Leadership Academy, a program initiated by our national union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).  At DC 37, the program is named in honor of former Executive Director Lillian Roberts.

“Our union has a long tradition of helping women move into leadership positions,” said Barbara Ingram-Edmonds, the union’s director of strategic initiatives.

Nationally, women’s share of union membership has grown from 33.6 percent to 45.5 percent in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Union affiliation arguably offers women the best defense against pay discrimination. On average, union women earn 13 percent more than non-union women, according to the Center for Economic and policy Research.

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Local 375 retiree Michelle Keller leads a workshop on grievance handling. “The sisters had the ‘safe space’ that gave them an opportunity to bond and speak more openly than they would in a difference place,” said Keller about the summer school program.

Workshops covered such topics as organizing skills, legal rights and conflict resolution. Local 375 retiree Michelle Keller ran a workshop on grievances.

Prior, whose job is funded with federal dollars distributed by the state, used the opportunity to enhance her lobbying skills. DC 37 members push to protect public services every year as city and state legislators hammer out their respective budgets.

“My goal is to continue to have a better communication, to listen and power other union members to stick with the union,” said Local 420 2nd Vice President Belinda (Bella) Medina. “Unions are under attack in America and we must work together as one to save our union and make it better.”

Photos: Liz Eastman, Yolanda deJesus, and Diana Robinson

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Local 375 member Elizabeth Eastman uses a T-shirt to express her feelings about women and unions. Eastman said her experience at the summer school reinvigorated her commitment to do solidarity work with the Fight for 15 movement of low-paid fast-food workers, who are predominately women. Interested in using social media as an organizing tool, Eastman also said she enjoyed a workshop on podcasting.

1 Comment on Summer School and Sisterhood

  1. I learned and understood during this training that it is not just today it has been from the beginning when you want it done tell a women it needs to be done and she will call her sisters and begin the plans of making it a reality. I appreciate all the shoulders we stand on from a long history of amazing accomplished women.

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