The VWC’s summer steering committee meeting brought new excitement, energy and leadership to the organization. In addition to many long-time steering committee members and representatives from VWC coalition members such as CWA, UE, SLAP and the Washington-Orange Central Labor Council, there were new steering committee members from Iraq Veterans Against the War, COTS workers, media organizers and health-and-safety activists. In addition, a number of members of the VWC Coordinating Committee (or “CoCo,” the VWC’s executive committee, made up of officers and at-large representatives) recently stepped down, and five new members, all women, were elected. “It’s great to have so many new people, especially young people, excited about the Workers’ Center,” commented VWC Organzier James Haslam. “And it’s always good to have a meeting where so many different people get to talk about their campaigns and experiences, and everyone gets to participate.”

The meeting led off with a report from four members of the VWC delegation to the US Social Forum in June. Delegates Angela DiGiulio, Julie Winn, Jessica Morley, and Jonathan Kissam shared their excitement at being part of this historic gathering, and reported on workshops on topics ranging from international labor solidarity to the death penalty to the ongoing effects of Hurricane Katrina. The VWC/USSF delegation is continuing to meet to discuss how to bring the movement-building work of the USSF back to Vermont (anyone who wants to be part of these ongoing meetings should contact VWC Organizer James Haslam at 802 272 0882 or james at workerscenter dot org).

VWC CoCo member and 2007 Solidarity School graduate David Kreindler then led the meeting in a leadership-development exercise to give steering committee members a flavor of the Solidarity School held by the Workers’ Center in the winter of 2007. “Instead of reporting on the solidarity school, we’re going to demonstrate it,” he said, using the kinds of popular education tools featured in the school. Steering committee members broke up into small groups and everyone got to share one instance in which they had been helped to step up as a leader. The small groups analyzed the commonalities and then reported back to the larger group, report-backs which repeatedly stressed the importance of mentoring, of being asked to take a leadership role, and of a personal commitment to justice. The VWC will likely be holding a one-day Solidarity School for community leaders in the fall, as well as another 3-day Solidarity School for emerging union leaders in the winter of 2008.

Reports on campaigns and Coordinating Committee elections filled up the rest of the meeting. VWC Organizer James Haslam reported on the efforts of the Burlington Livable City Coalition to support the livable-wage campaign by school support staff represented by AFSCME and the Burlington Education Association, VWC CoCo member Peg Franzen reported on successful petitioning for single-payer outside the showings of Michael Moore’s new movie SICKo, and Traven Leyshon, president of the Washington-Orange Central Labor Council (and VWC CoCo member) reported on the efforts of Vermont Labor Against the War to build an antiwar presence at the Labor Day parade and to encourage union members to participate in the Iraq Moratorium. CWA member Darlene Stone stop the sale of Verizon’s land-lines to Fairpoint, ending her report by singing “They Tried to sell us off to Fairpoint” to the tune of Amy Winehouse’s “They Tried to Send Me to Rehab,” for which she received a round of applause.

The newly elected members of the Coordinating Committee are Kit Andrews (Secretary), Angela DiGiulio (Student Labor Action Project rep), Jen Henry (Justice for Healthcare Workers rep), Darlene Stone (at-large), and Emily Casey (at-large). In addition, several current CoCo members took on new officer positions: Dawn Stanger took over the position of President, David Kreindler was elected Vice-President, and Peg Franzen became Treasurer. At-large members Traven Leyshon and Jonathan Kissam will continue in their duties.