2015 AFT Northwest Leadership Forum: Recap

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Posted Aug. 8, 2015 at 5 p.m.

As all education and health professionals know, people never really stops learning once they finish their education. There are always new studies and new techniques to brush up on.

The same goes for union work, which is why AFT prides itself on our constantly updated and relevant trainings.

From July 30 to Aug. 2 more than 70 union leaders from around the Pacific Northwest gathered in Vancouver, WA for the Northwest Leadership Forum. Some members traveled all the way from Alaska and from as far south as Medford, Oregon.

The Leadership Forum officially kicked off July 30 at 10 a.m. with registration. At the registration desk members received their name badges and AFT gear such as t-shirts, water bottles, pens and much more.

The first round of classes began the same day with seminars on leadership skills and ways to build solidarity across different classifications of people.

After class it was time for food and friends. Trainings aren’t just about training after all.

Members feasted on a wonderful dinner provided by the Vancouver Hilton. The room was filled with the noises of plates being filled, laughs of old friends catching up and new friends being made. Unions are about solidarity, and sharing a meal is one tasty way to build it.

After dinner and dessert it was time for the evening program emceed by AFT Western Regional Director Gerard Friesz.

Friesz shared a similar message from his AFT-Oregon’s Convention speech.

“We can win this fight,” Friesz told the crowd.

Workers around the country are now standing up for their rights, taking back their workplaces and making their voices heard.

Next up were the AFT state federation leaders, APEA Business Manager Pete Ford, OSEA Vice President MaLena Wirth, AFT-Washington President Karen Strickland, and AFT-Oregon President David Rives. Rives got the attendees rallied up for the next speaker.

Rives was blunt about the oncoming attacks to workers, but was enthusiastic about the opportunities these challenges present.

“Now is the time for us to organize and take back our workplaces,” Rives said.

Next up was AFT Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker. She echoed Rives’ message, but highlighted unions can be creative in their organizing and informing campaigns.

Ricker put on a kitchen apron from OSEA with important student nutrition facts and explained this was a fantastic example of a campaign tool. This apron was not only handy in the kitchen, but explains the value of school workers.

After Ricker’s positive speech, the crowd was free to mingle and most did. Soon the education and healthcare workers meandered back to their rooms and homes to prepare for the next day.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday were long form class days. Beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 4 p.m. AFT members attended in depth classes on: powering up your local union, communication skills, union leadership skills, grievance mobilization, and negotiations.

A small group discussion at AFT's Northwest Leadership Forum, July 30 - Aug. 2, 2015. Photo by Justin Buchanan

Classes were filled with important information taught by experienced AFT members and staff. Instructors encouraged discussion and provided interactive hands on training.

Some attendees were walked though tools like AFT’s Leadernet or were provided 1-on-1 instruction on how to plan out a campaign.

Events like these are valuable to all members. These skills support members in speaking up and taking back their workplaces.

“I cannot recommend these training events enough - get to one as soon as you can,” David Rives said. “Members learn countless skills that are of value both in work, and in life. Plus the people you get to meet are the best.”

The next AFT-Oregon training is Winter School in January.

AFT-Oregon President David Rives writes notes on a sticky pad sheet. Photo by Justin Buchanan