It’s important to start where we started.
This process really did begin last fall and I really did start with a guy who is now running for office, Richard Becker. All told, I went through perhaps 150 conversations with people from across the country. My mandate, as folks may recall, was to make the trip alive and diverse so I did my best to confront that expectation. I spent a lot of time doing one-on-one work with people, many times making intentional visits to where they lived and worked. It was fun and exciting, but also troubling.
Labor unions in the United States have been actively engaged in a battle for their very souls since the infamous Janus case was filed on the Supreme Court level in 2017, though this has been going on a lot longer than that if we’re telling the truth. All Janus really did for the labor movement was truly crystallize the shot clock. Unions all over are springing into action, some nimble some rickety, doing their best to shore up their defenses to prepare themselves for what is to come.
So when I started having initial conversations in bars, conference rooms, and basements about this experience I had in 2017 I knew not to take the fast and excited “Yes that sounds great!” I would get immediately too seriously. I definitely responded positively and with excitement, but I imagined that conversations with union officials and supervisors weren’t going to go as well. For one thing, a lot of the people I was asking to come along were part of exciting campaigns that required talented staff. I’m fortunate to be in the number of people who can be described in this way and every one of the people I asked to come along had a similar issue. There was also the not-so-small matter of needing to essentially take off 9 or 10 days from work to travel and recover from such an experience, an obstacle that knocked out quite a few prospective delegates.
By the time Winter looked to Spring, my whiteboard was healthy with a list of solid names. February was where I called it and cut off all real additions (plans changed later, but that’s a story for another time.) I felt like my mandate had been met:
– 80 percent of those traveling with us would be people of color
– Over 60 percent of those traveling with us would be women of color
– For 90 percent of those traveling with us, this would be their first trip to Asia
Our delegate list was a veritable Murderer’s Row of social justice that I, to this day, can’t believe was possible:
Michael Leon Guerrero – Labor Network for Sustainability
Aaron Goggans – International Workers of the World
April Goggans – National Treasury Employees Union Chapter 250
Tiffany Flowers – United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400
Darrion Smith – Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (UE)
Yasemin Zahra – Montgomery County Educators Associaion/NEA
John Braxton – AFT (IBT previously)
DeBoRah Dickerson – Domestic Workers United
Michael Zweig – UUP
Elandria Williams – Beautiful Solutions (CWU, Highlander previously)
Jason Roe – Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 3
Eleonore Wesserle – Line Break Media (narrative team lead)
Rebecca Gorena – Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity
Jamil Johnson – Tougaloo College/United Students Against Sweatshops
Tia Patrick – Tougaloo College
Jonita S. Cooper – Tougaloo College
Terriyana Bailey – Tougaloo College
Detrice Roberts – Tougaloo College, point person for interns
Joshua Dedmond – US Labor Against the War (UAW, Fight for 15)
Reece Chenault – US Labor Against the War
We were looking to gather together April 28th in Baltimore at the Maritime Institute for some time with Juyeon Rhee, Organizer for Nodutdol (Korean diaspora organization that helped organize my original trip in 2017) to talk about Korea’s current political state, trade unionism, and learn a few Korean phrases. Then, on April 29th, we would cross the ocean.
Seems relatively simple looking at that paragraph… but nothing could be farther from the truth.