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CLUW Revitalizes Fight for Working Women at 17th Biennial Convention

Photo from the CLUW Convention.

Five hundred invigorated labor union women came together recently to celebrate new leadership, a new vision and educational trainings at the Coalition of Labor Union Women’s (CLUW’s) Biennial Convention at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nev.

CLUW members stayed true to their convention theme—CLUW: Moving the Working Women’s Agenda Forward!—by focusing on workshops and trainings, from voter suppression and social media 101 to organizing the next generation of leaders and stress management. This year, delegates and observers engaged in deep conversations around expanding the membership, creating a campaign-oriented vision and creating more opportunities for women younger than 35 to serve as leaders in CLUW chapters.

Keynote speaker AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Laura Reyes wowed the crowd by using her introduction music—"Roar," by Katy Perry—to drive the idea that all women are leaders and we have to be willing to take bold steps to win campaigns for working women.

One of the most impressive aspects of the convention was the focus and dedication on intergenerational dialogue around the empowerment of young workers. I had the chance to moderate a panel with three dynamic women who shared their triumphs and struggles working in an intergenerational environment. Young workers Donchele Soper, a member of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1245, and Dina Yarmus, a member of UNITE HERE Local 274, talked about strategies CLUW chapters could implement to ensure young women feel more included in decision making and campaign strategy; CLUW co-founder and Berger-Marks Foundation Secretary-Treasurer Carolyn Jacobson discussed ways CLUW members could utilize mentoring and sponsorship to uplift women in the workplace and within their organizations.

After five days of building and growing, CLUW delegates elected a new president, Connie Leak from the UAW, to help drive the new strategic vision.

The organization re-elected Executive Vice President Dee Gorczyca from the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), Treasurer Judy Beard from Postal Workers (APWU), Recording Secretary Kerry Newkirk from SEIU and National Vice Presidents Shelvy Young Abrams from AFT, Diane Babineaux from the Machinists (IAM), Janet Hill from the United Steelworkers (USW), Angela W. Johnson from the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Theresa Kandt from Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU), Shyla La’Sha from SAG-AFTRA, Michele Newby from the Fire Fighters (IAFF), Sarah Reynolds from the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Elisa Riordan from the Communications Workers of America (CWA), Joanne Sanders from Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), Victoria Sawicki from the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), Robyn Sherles from SEIU and Carolyn Williams from the Electrical Workers (IBEW). Newly elected national vice presidents include Jane Blume from UAW, LaTonya Crisp-Sauray from the Transport Workers (TWU) and Carla Insinga from AFSCME.

Congratulations to all of the new and returning leaders of CLUW. For more information on CLUW’s post-convention plan, check out

Carmen Berkley is the director of Civil, Human and Women’s Rights at the AFL-CIO. 
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