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As the Trump era begins, local unions will practice solidarity and resistance

Reprinted with permission from the Minneapolis Labor Review, January 27, 2017

By Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou, President, Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation

Never before have the institutions of the labor movement faced as formidable a threat as Donald Trump in the White House with Republican-controlled majorities in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. Union members are bracing for widespread attacks on our rights to collectively bargain and on the very structures that allow us to leverage pressure on employers.

If this wasn’t bad enough, this past election also showed just how easily divided we can be in our own ranks.

While some despair as we look to the horizon, it surely is not all bad news.  Unions were not always legal. Workers in generations before us created and fought for the right to collectively bargain, just like we will continue to fight regardless of the barriers corporate CEOs and destructive politicians put in our way.

Locally, our unions have rejected a “go it alone approach.” Unions across all sectors boldly have chosen to put forth a vision of solidarity and resistance. Local union leaders have been clear, as union members and as workers, that our shared economic experiences and the very work that we do transcends all of the rhetoric, oppression and lies that have divided this country so deeply—including in our own membership.

It took Trump just one campaign and a handful of tweets to completely upend our message of shared economic opportunity for all. He stole and regurgitated the labor movement’s message in 140 characters or less. He was so effective that voters—including even union members reading this publication—were able to look past his history, prejudices and missteps to vote for him. The amount of uncertainty and anger that Trump has been able to channel and will continue to channel in his administration will take exponentially much more work to undo.

Looking ahead, the leaders of our labor movement must make ourselves vulnerable to the real changes happening in our movement and in our communities. This means creating spaces for workers to come together to learn from each other’s experiences and to help chart a path forward both in their workplaces and in the broader community.

Here at the MRLF, we are creating organizing ‘hot spots’ across our seven-county region to carry out this work.

The labor movement’s best tool is our membership in every community. We are looking for leaders to craft local opportunities for conversations with union members, workers and other community members to share their economic experiences. These conversations will be a part of an intensive membership engagement framework that empowers union members to think critically about their potential impact on the local economy and the local community.

Our regional hot spots won’t just prepare members to fight back against attacks, but will also help build a bold economic agenda that advances the lives of all workers.

We are not retracting in this moment — we will use the full force of our community, members and resources to build wins. As we prepare for a major shift in the structures of the labor movement, I am confident our membership and our allies will come together united.

Contact MRLF president Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou at 612-321-5670 or chelsie@minneapolisunions.org.

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