Who wants to go to Detroit for four days of 8+ hours of governance meetings? Apparently I did. And you know what? I’m glad that I went!
SEIU held its Convention from Saturday, May 21 through Tuesday, May 24 at the COBO center in Detroit, Michigan. (“Really? DETROIT? Why?” asked every person that I told.) However, Detroit was the perfect locale for the issues to be discussed. The SEIU Convention delved really deep into such issues as environmental justice, racial justice and immigration justice. Where better than down the road from Flint, Michigan to discuss how environmental justice can impact us? Where better than Detroit, a city with over an 85% minority population, to discuss racial justice issues? Where better than at the U.S. border to discuss immigration justice?
Further, Detroit is an important city to the Labor Movement. Detroit’s labor history began in 1818 when the Detroit Mechanics’ Society was founded. “All skilled labor in Detroit is organized into trade unions,” wrote streetcar driver Malcolm McLeod in 1901. “And through the efforts of those unions we have bettered our conditions, reduced the hours of labor, and increased wages so that we now can find time to educate ourselves and our children and take the place in society which has been denied them” (Labors Legacy, page 2).
…Providing decent working conditions, raising wages, helping end poverty. These were the kinds of dreams that have motivated many of Detroit’s labor leaders and social reformers over the years and that would eventually make Detroit one of the nation’s premiere union towns” (Labors Legacy, page 2).
There was no better location than Detroit to renew our commitment to these issues. On these matters and other social justice issues, the SEIU Convention voted to adopt the following resolutions, among others:
- Resolution 106A: To Win Economic Justice for Working People, We Must Win Racial Justice
- Resolution 108A: Environmental Justice for Working People
- Resolution 116: Equality for All Working People: Ending Discrimination Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer People
- Resolution 107: Immigrant Justice
In Connecticut, we have already begun working on some of these issues. The 4Cs is an active participant in the Democracy, Unity and Equality (D.U.E.) Justice coalition that brings together labor, community and faith-based groups to reduce income inequality and promote democracy. D.U.E. Justice’s agenda includes good jobs and fair wages; universal access to quality public education; a vibrant and fairly funded public sector; democracy in our state and in our work places; and racial, gender, and ethnic justice. We have actively supported CT Student 4 a Dream for undocumented students to be able to access financial aid at our colleges.
After attending the Convention in Detroit, I returned energized and with a renewed commitment towards progress on these issues and more! I hope you will join the 4Cs in our commitment to justice issues.
Joining me for their first convention were Lisa Calabrese, NVCC Chapter Officer for CCPs; Kimberly Small, Office Manager; and Greg Jackson, Internal Organizer. Returning to the convention were Bryan Bonina, 4Cs President and Steve Krevisky, 4Cs Secretary. Our Political Organizer, Bob Fernandez, was also invited as a guest of SEIU to speak on student debt.
And while Detroit wouldn’t make my top ten list of cities to visit, it had some cool areas. Belle Island in the river between Detroit and Canada seems like a fun place to spend a warm, summer day either in one of the many parks, playgrounds, beach or aquarium. Eastern Market on the weekends is bustling with local food merchants and artisans. Riverwalk, right outside of the COBO center, was a great walk along the river with a view of Canada, and it went right past the Michigan Labor Legacy Landmark, “Transcending,” a permanent reminder of the importance of labor in Detroit – a reminder of what we can achieve if we all work towards progress.