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Organizing the South and Poetry on Work

In his Friday edition of the Texas AFL-CIO News, Ed Sills the state federation’s communications director, points out two articles of interest you may have missed on the labor movement’s southern organizing strategy and a lifetime achievement award for poet and former UAW member Philip Levine.

In a report from the AFL-CIO 2013 Convention’s action sessions on organizing in the South and “Turning Texas Blue,” The Hill speaks extensively with Texas AFT President Linda Bridges.

Just because most of the workers are in "right to work" for less states, it’s time that we have real strategies about how to organize, about how to bring them into the labor movement in great numbers. I think that’s how we eventually change the laws in the South, through organizing.

The piece also includes interviews with Maria Somma, United Steelworkers (USW) assistant organizing director, Florida AFL-CIO President Mike Williams and North Carolina State AFL-CIO President James Andrews and North Carolina federation's Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan. Read the full article.    

Levine, who has written of his experiences working in Detroit factories in the post-World War II years and served as the nation’s poet laureate, won the $100,000 lifetime achievement award from the Academy of American Poets. One of his award-winning collections of poems: "What Work Is.”

The New York Times Arts Beat blog says:

In an essay quoted on the academy’s Web site, Mr. Levine, now 85, described the impulse to put his experiences on the assembly line into verse. “I believed even then that if I could transform my experience into poetry I would give it the value and dignity it did not begin to possess on its own,” he wrote. “I thought too that if I could understand my life—or at least the part my work played in it—I could embrace it with some degree of joy, an element conspicuously missing from my life.”

Levin gave a reading of his works at AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C., in 2011. Read more here and here.  

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