Eight years ago, the Organizing Steward program was little more than a cutting-edge concept in the mind of Local 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell. But thanks to a whole lot of hard work and a healthy dose of solidarity, the program has blossomed into a full-blown army of 85 experienced and dedicated organizers who are ready and willing to hit the ground running.
The class of 2017 is the largest Organizing Steward group to date, which is entirely due to the power of the Stewards themselves, who have committed to recruiting others and growing their ranks year after year. On January 27, 2017, the Organizing Stewards gathered together at Weakley Hall for their annual orientation, where they got the chance to get to know one another and prepare for the year ahead.
The day kicked off with a fun singalong, led by Staff Organizer Eileen Purcell on the accordion and retiree Jim Lappin on banjo. Business Manager Tom Dalzell welcomed the Stewards with words of inspiration and gratitude, calling the group “a powerful force” and commending them for their hard work and dedication.
Many of the Organizing Stewards report that the highlight of the day was getting to meet and hear from a group of union leaders visiting from El Salvador (“Juntos en La Lucha” for more). Staff Organizer Fred Ross introduced the Salvadoran delegation by sharing his own personal experience organizing against the hostile right-wing regime that trampled all over El Salvadoran workers’ rights several decades ago. Staff Organizer Eileen Purcell then invited each of the five Salvadoran union leaders to say a few words. They spoke extremely highly of Local 1245, and were all impressed and inspired by the number of young people in the room.
The day-long training also included a number of breakout sessions, where the Stewards had the opportunity to learn more about one another, share highlights from the previous year, and begin planning organizing activities for the coming year.
The group also discussed the threats and opportunities that Local 1245 and the Labor Movement will face under the new administration. California Labor Federation lobbyist Michael Young outlined a number of potential policy changes, and explained how they could impact health care, immigration, infrastructure and unions. He emphasized that these threats also present new opportunities to organize, both within and beyond our union, in order to combat attacks on workers’ rights, wages and benefits.
“My experiences as an Organizing Steward have taught me the importance of solidarity, sacrifice and struggle in defending and building our Labor Movement,” said Organizing Steward Samson Wilson, a lineman who works at NV Energy. “There is a strong sense of excitement in seeing how many new Organizing Stewards have joined us in this critical time.”
The orientation concluded with a screening of a documentary entitled “Brothers on the Line,” which tells the powerful story of the Reuther brothers and the intimidation, hostility and violence they encountered as they fought to establish the United Auto Workers union.
The Stewards returned to the union hall the following morning, where they were officially sworn in in front of the Local 1245 Advisory Council and honored guests. (See “Organizing Stewards Sworn In” for more.)
2017 Organizing Stewards
Harold Blackshire Jr.
Laquania “Q” Davis
Cristina De La Fuente
Ashley Nelson Finley
Photo by John Storey