The Labor Education Service provides an on-going series of opportunities for working women to enhance their leadership skills and network on issues important to them. To participate in planning women’s events, contact the LES office, 612-624-5020 or e-mail us.
Retreats are held every two years. The next one is scheduled for the spring of 2019. Stay connected on our Facebook page.
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
The 2018 Midwest School for Women Workers brings together women, transfeminine, non-binary, and gender non-conforming workers from across the Midwest who want to renew our labor movement and restore our democracy. Workshops and plenary sessions will address a wide range of topics, including: broad-based organizing and engagement; racial and gender justice in the union and the workplace; the role of worker centers in our movement; sexual harassment and sexual violence in the union and at work; forming coalitions and community partnerships; and connecting the labor movement with other movements of resistance.
2017 Women & Femmes Retreat focuses on building power
The Retreat, the fifth offered by LES since 2009, took a step forward by expanding the scope of participation. Under the theme, “Using Our Experiences & Identities to Build Power,” the Retreat was opened to anyone who, in whole or in substantial part, locates themselves on the feminine side of the spectrum, including non-binary, gender non-conforming, genderfluid, genderqueer, two-spirit and transfeminine people. The name was changed from “Union Women’s Retreat” to “Union Women & Femmes Retreat.”
Opening sessions focused on the importance of inclusivity, especially as it relates to workplace activism. They featured presentations by Stef Willenchek of the University of Minnesota’s Gender & Sexuality Center for Queer & Trans Life and CeCe McDonald, an activist, speaker and icon in the LGBTQ community.
State Rep. Mary Kunesh Podein, DFL-New Brighton, was the closing plenary speaker. A graduate of Labor Education Service programming, she discussed her decision to run for office and the importance of getting involved in legislative issues.
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.
A 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.
Other 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.
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” http://rocunited.org/one-fair-wage/ and to support restaurants that operate with sustainable labor practices. http://rocunited.org/consumer-action
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
(Some of the links below may no longer be active. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you need access to any of the information.)
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)