Nevertheless, they persisted: The 2017 Edna and Kate Mullany Winners

2017 Edna and Kate Winners and Finalists with Berger-Marks Trustees and Judges
2017 Edna and Kate Winners and Finalists with Berger-Marks Trustees and Judges
“Fighting for good jobs benefits all of us. Slowly but surely people are starting to understand that when one of us benefits, we all benefit.” So says Angelica Clarke, executive director of the Albany Social Justice Center, and winner of this year’s Edna Award from the Berger-Marks Foundation. Clarke has brought together a coalition of labor and community groups to form a hub at the Center in Albany, NY, where she fosters new organizing efforts that cross cultural, class, and racial boundaries.

A willingness to grapple with ingrained prejudices and confront the attitudes that hold organizing back is a common thread that can be found in each of the stories of this year’s Edna and Kate Mullany Award winners. Berger-Marks Foundation Trustees proudly handed out the awards at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on February 9.

Each Kate Mullany Award winner persisted in organizing their workplaces and their communities in the face of harassment and pushback from their employers and from the public. Jessica Ellul organized her fellow medical workers in Connecticut with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Angela Melvin led a unionization drive with the Communication Workers of America (CWA) at a call center for T-Mobile in Wichita, KS. And Allysha Shin led an organizing drive with the National Nurses United (NNU) at Huntington Hospital in California.

The Edna Awards of Distinction went to two community organizers: Cathy Dang, Executive Director of New York City’s CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities; and Jessica Carmona Cabrera, the Central California Regional Coordinator for the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance. Dang has worked to build bridges between Black, Brown, and Asian communities in fighting police brutality and other issues; while Carmona Cabrera has fought bravely alongside other immigrant youth to raise public awareness of the need for policies that support immigrant communities.

We at the Berger-Marks Foundation are proud to honor the work of these persistent young women. As we move into our next phase of shifting the primary work of the Foundation on to the wonderful folks at the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization at Rutgers University and the Kalmanovitz Institute at Georgetown University, we are pleased to announce that the Foundation has dedicated a portion of our remaining funds to ensure that these awards continue.

International Women’s Day becomes A Day Without Women

A new women’s rights movement is rising from the grassroots; its first major manifestation was the massive Women’s March January 21st, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. Its leaders are many and varied; they include labor leaders such as Sarita Gupta, Alicia Garza, and Ai-Jen Poo, who have been organizing low-wage and domestic workers, as well as social justice feminist leaders like Linda Sarsour, Monica Simpson, and Janaé Bonsu. These leaders, along with thousands of women, converged in cities to lead yet another wave of street heat actions, including civil disobedience, on March 8, International Women’s Day.

women workers rising peoples worldCalling it A Day Without Women, or the Women’s Strike, the movement encouraged women everywhere to take a day away from all paid and unpaid work to march, demonstrate, or simply to reflect. A coalition backed by labor unions and allied labor organizations (such as Jobs with Justice and National Domestic Workers United) held a rally in Washington, DC to bring together women and their supporters to say that business as usual cannot continue under the current regime. Indeed, the ideology of President Trump and his team in Congress and inside the White House hinges on the denigration and physical endangerment of women and girls. Their rolling back of job protections, of health care for women and people with disabilities, and of civil liberties for transgender people and immigrants are making women and kids everywhere less safe. Women of all class, racial and ethnic backgrounds cannot safely go to work, seek health care, or drop their children off at school or community centers without fear of something happening that will cause them to lose their livelihoods, their access to health care, or even their children. Many women are left feeling they have no choice but to speak out and resist.

NDWA founder Ai-Jen Poo and Jobs with Justice Executive Director Sarita Gupta each penned a personal essay about why they would be protesting on March 8th. The Economic Policy Institute has published a brief study on how subsidized child care would lead to greater participation by women in the labor force and thus a healthier economy. Many low-wage and domestic workers did walk off the job that day. The Baffler published on its blog an excellent reading list for those interested in learning more about the state of women’s rights in the US. And Sarsour and other inspiring leaders of the January 21st Women’s March were arrested in New York for participating in an act of civil disobedience. We look forward to the next wave of resistance from this rising women’s movement, and recall the words of the Bread and Roses strike, another time when women rose up to claim their rights and their power:
1912 Bread and Roses Strike
As we go marching, marching
We bring the greater days
For the rising of the women
Means the rising of the race
No more the drudge and idler
Ten that toil where one reposes
But the sharing of life’s glories
Bread and roses, bread and roses