Six delegates represented IBEW 1245 at the AFL-CIO’s 2024 Martin Luther King Jr. Civil and Human Rights Conference, which took place over MLK Day weekend in Montgomery, Alabama – the birthplace of King’s fight for civil rights.
The conference featured several compelling speeches and presentations from distinguished leaders, including US Senator Laphonza Butler, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, and acting US Secretary of Labor Julie Su.
“Julie Su, the acting secretary of labor, motivated me by offering guidance on how I might assist in resolving problems that our members are encountering,” said 1245 Organizing Steward Tania Rios. “She stated that … ‘Union is not a bad word — it is the reason America is strong. It is the reason America is going to grow stronger. It is the engine for economic and human rights. It is how we are going to achieve the promise of American democracy.’”
“I had the opportunity to listen to multiple leaders who spoke on what it means to make a difference and stand up for what we believe as a unit in solidarity,” said 1245 Organizing Steward Derrick Maynard. “I learned (and believe) that knowledge is power and speaking up and not staying silent is powerful. I learned that if we demand change, we need to make the difference. Our Voice, Our Ballot, Our Future.”
The conference workshops touched on a variety of topics, including the right to organize and protect immigrant workers; transactional to transformational organizing; fighting for voting rights; and Artificial Intelligence.
“I was aware of Al, but I had never considered how this technology could affect my fellow brothers and sisters [before this workshop],” said 1245 Organizing Steward Teresa Aguilar. “Among the many adverse effects of technology are the erosion of professional discretion and originality, the loss of jobs and displacement of our members, and invasive monitoring and micromanagement. While we may not be able to halt the development of new technologies, we can raise awareness, educate our members, and pass laws to control Al in the workplace.”
“The workshop on ‘transaction to transformation’ focused on how to shift conversations and shift people’s perspective regarding labor issues,” said Organizing Steward Josh Sosa. “It was very valuable for my future organizing endeavors because we had an opportunity to practice with a partner the skills we were taught.”
Delegates also participated in community service activities; the Local 1245 delegation helped bag up clothes and toiletries for families in need. Additionally, the 1245 delegation also had the opportunity to visit the Montgomery local of the IBEW, meet with their Business Manager, and learn about their brotherhood.
The conference concluded on Sunday with a tour of the Legacy Museum, which features a series of powerful and hard-hitting exhibits that document the horrific and brutal history of the slave trade. Many of the delegates were moved to tears by what they saw and learned.
“The two-hour museum stay was emotional to say the least. Learning how big banks were financing the sale of human beings was shocking. Seeing the pictures and simulations made you feel the sadness and the strength African Americans experienced during this time,” said IBEW 1245 Assistant Business Manager Rene Cruz Martinez. “But one thing is for sure –the labor movement will always be tied with human and civil rights. We are still fighting for decent working conditions and fair pay for those without representation in this country. I left feeling a sense of motivation to keep fighting the good fight.”