Amherst Prof. Cites Model Victories for Valley Workers

Dale Melcher runs the “labor extension” program at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. The program helps unions. She told MassLaborNews.com on May 4 about two groups that could be an inspiration to workers throughout Massachusetts. The first group is Community Labor United (CLU) in Boston.

“Our first campaign was called ‘Our Schools, Our Futures,’” said Lisa Clauson. She is one of two directors of CLU, which she founded in 2004. In her previous work as an organizer for community groups, she helped win passage of Boston's living wage law, and helped boost the state minimum wage. “That [schools] campaign created high wage jobs for Boston residents. Half of the jobs went to recent Boston public school graduates. To win that goal, we organized a diverse coalition of youth organizations, community groups, churches and unions to work with the city of Boston.”

CLU’s board of directors includes Rich Rogers of the Greater Boston Labor Council, Lauren Jacobs of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 615, Enid Eckstein of SEIU Local 1199, Tom Flynn of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, and Warren Pepicelli of the New England chapter of the UNITE HERE union.

“Another of our successful campaigns was called Green Justice,” Clauson said. In October 2009, Massachusetts adopted a first-in-the-nation, $1.4 billion energy efficiency plan that will bring jobs and home retrofits to Massachusetts's working class communities. The Green Justice Coalition made sure this happened by:

-Forming a statewide coalition of community organizations, labor unions, environmental and faith groups;

-Mobilizing hundreds of their members to attend state hearings, testify, and pressure utility companies for a Green Justice energy efficiency plan;

-Surveying neighborhoods and showed that existing utility plans do not effectively reach low-income neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color;

-Gathering thousands of postcards and calling utility CEOs to make sure they adopted our plans.

Darlene Lombos is the other director of CLU. She has been an organizer for many years. She is Filipina and speaks Tagalog and Portuguese. Among the group’s staff is Jeremy Shenk, formerly of SEIU Local 615. He helped almost 1,500 security officers in the Boston area form a union and get a contract that had affordable, high quality healthcare, significant wage increases, and other benefits.

More information is at www.MassCLU.org

The second group that Dale Melcher of UMass Amherst said could be an inspiration to workers throughout Massachusetts is the Albany, New York-based Workforce Development Institute (WDI). “We are committed to improving the lives of working families across New York State,” said Ed Murphy, the group’s director.

WDI’s board members include Jeremiah Comer of the IBEW union, Andrea Goldberger of UFCW Local 1, Denis Hughes, of the New York State AFL-CIO, James Bertolone of American Postal Workers Local 215, William Pienta of the United Steelworkers of America, and Kenneth Brynien of the Public Employees Federation.

“We achieve our goal by providing programs in ‘workforce intelligence,’ economic development, training and education, cultural enrichment, family support, and disabled and dislocated worker services," Murphy said.

More information is at www.wdiny.org

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This article first appeared at www.MassLaborNews.com

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