Union Inspiration in Historic Boston

Four members of Local 800 joined 5000 delegates from across the United States and Canada at AFSCME's 43rd International Convention, held in Boston in mid-July.

They rose early each morning to attend 7:30 AM training workshops, before the day's main Convention sessions began – and they returned not exhausted but energized to continue, in the words of Josie Cha from the Museum of Tolerance, the “fight for fair treatment, justice, and equal rights for all workers.” (photo at right: Lilia Arbona and Josie Cha)

“I met delegates from all over the country,” reported Local 800 President and JVS SoCal employee Charlie Orlowski. “Many of them wanted to adopt the idea of our Weingarten Rights card, and I in turn was inspired by learning about all that they are doing. The experience reinforced for me the knowledge of how important our union is.”

Lilia Arbona, from the Jewish Federation, said she was deeply moved by the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the strike by the Memphis sanitation workers (and AFSCME members), the strike that brought Martin Luther King to Memphis, his last act of solidarity before his assassination. Two of the original striking sanitation workers told their story of how they risked everything to achieve civil rights and economic justice. One also shared how the movement got its iconic "I Am A Man" name: the racist mayor of Memphis called out a sanitation worker, “Boy, what are you doing in my office?” The worker replied: “I am a man.”

Georgino Ludwig, from JVS GAIN, commented: “Being in Boston and seeing the history of America and the Unions side by side was truly amazing. The passion on display by everyone there was inspiring.”

For a five-minute video with Convention highlights, see here.