Some 160 women took part in the 2015 Minnesota Union Women’s Retreat coordinated by the Labor Education Service. The diverse group brought new experiences and energy to the fourth of these biennial retreats.

Panel at Womens Retreat 2015A panel of leaders set the tone when they urged women to step up in their organizations.

Moderated by Leanne Kunze, organizing director of AFSCME Council 65, the panel included Shar Knutson, president of the Minnesota AFL-CIO; Tee McClenty, executive director of the Minnesota School Employees Association; Mary Cathryn Ricker, national vice president of the American Federation of Teachers; and Stacy Spexet, president of United Steelworkers Local 9460, the largest Steelworkers’ local in Minnesota.

Shar Knutson at 2015 LES Womens RetreatOther panels and presentations focused on “Understanding the Attack on Worker Rights,” “Worker Organizing and the Impact on Women” and “Women’s Issues Across Generations.”

Each participant attended two workshops from a list of four that included building power for bargaining, addressing workplace bullying, bridging the generation gap and learning from labor history.

In between sessions, participants had many opportunities to network and form relationships among their various organizations and communities.

Saru Jayaraman
Keynote speaker Saru Jayaraman, co-founder of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, closed the retreat with a spirited discussion of the ways workers are challenging the low wages and poor working conditions in the hospitality industry. She urged participants to take part in her organization’s campaigns for “one fair wage” and to support restaurants that operate with sustainable labor practices.
Group at 2015 LES Womens Retreat
The Labor Education Service thanks the many facilitators, presenters, and volunteers who made the retreat possible, as well as the organizations that provided financial support for scholarships and programming: Minnesota AFL-CIO, Education Minnesota, AFSCME Local 22, IBEW Local 110 and the law firm of Sieben Carey.



Download materials from the Retreat

General sessions

Understanding Attacks on Worker Rights (PowerPoint)


MAPE Anti-Bullying Campaign 

Respectful Workplace Policy

Labor History Timeline

Labor History Handout

Mobilizing and Building Power for Bargaining

Mobilizing and Building Power for Bargaining: Asking, Involving, Engaging, and Connecting

Web resource links

How the Rise of Women in Labor Could Save the Movement (the Nation)

Racial Inequality Significant Across All Areas, Report Finds (Philanthropy News Digest)

What happens when you find out a year of college costs $71,000 (Washington Post)

The Changing Face of the Heartland (The Brookings Essay)