Thursday, May 28, 2009

Kathy Black was honored by Jobs With Justice

Award Acceptance Remarks, Kathy Black, Jobs with Justice 10th Anniversary Awards Reception March 27, 2009

Thanks so much for this wonderful honor. Maybe I should retire now. Getting honored by an organization that represents the labor community, and our faith-based and community allies feels like a lifetime achievement award. Does a pension come with this?

I want to congratulate the other honorees tonight, most of whom I’ve worked closely with in one way or another - especially CLUW sister and Board member, April Logan, who chairs our Young Women’s Committee, and Dorian Lam, who will also be honored by CLUW next week (invitations here!) - all of whom are so deserving of recognition, and some of whom are critical parts of our youth vanguard of the local labor movement.

We have a keynote speaker tonight, so I am, uncharacteristically, not going to take advantage of this opportunity to talk about the issues and campaigns dearest to my heart - not even the war, if you can believe that. Instead I want to use my few minutes to thank the people who make it possible for me to do the work that earned me this acknowledgment.

My start in the labor movement came many years ago in SEIU in Oregon, but my union family for the past 12 years has been AFSCME DC47. I couldn’t have landed in a more perfect place. As most of you know, DC47 has a long history of supporting social and economic justice, and of viewing the union movement as more than just an advocate for its members’ wages, hours and working conditions. We take the word “movement” seriously, recognizing the connections, not just between unions and the community and faith-based groups, but also to the larger political arena, to many other interest groups, to American foreign policy and to international solidarity.

For many years, Tom Cronin was our leader and agitator-in-chief, a vocal advocate and voice of conscience on many issues that weren’t always popular with other unions and sometimes not even with all of our members. And for ten years he was my boss and the person who appointed me to represent DC47 as we helped start and lead Jobs with Justice through its early years. He supported pretty much every progressive initiative that was brought to the union and he trusted me to represent him and the union on countless occasions, from the Living Wage Campaign to US Labor Against the War, and many in between. He promised me he’d be here tonight, and I thought I would have the chance to publicly thank him for his leadership and vision, his friendship and support. I’ll be giving him a hard time later for not being here!

Cathy Scott is here tonight, and she has always been down with the DC47 progressive agenda. As our new leader, she carries on the tradition of involving our union in the pressing issues of the day, locally, nationally and internationally. She’s also a very committed feminist, serves on our CLUW Board and is extremely supportive of many feminist organizations and causes. She is now leading us through one of our toughest budget and contract battles with the City of Philadelphia that our union has ever had, and she’s doing a great job. Cathy is also the person most responsible for bringing me to the DC47. She recruited me to come work at DC47, created the job I have now and interviewed no one else for it, and she lobbied our H&W trustees to hire me.

I met Cathy while I was working on a losing campaign for a progressive candidate for State Senate, and I was already President of CLUW, so she knew what she was getting. And she too has invested her trust in me, gives me the space and latitude to do all the movement work I do, and she responds favorably to all my appeals for money and support on behalf of many campaigns. So thank you, Cathy, for your confidence and support.

And let me give a shout out to the great DC47 team I work with every day - many are here tonight. Thank you all.

So you can see I found the perfect union to do the broadly defined labor movement work I love, and thank goodness for that, because let’s face it, who else would put up with me?!

There are many others who have helped me along the way or worked with me on many campaigns and issues, and lots of you are here in this room - too many to thank individually, but let me give another shout out to my wonderful CLUW sisterhood! Thank you all.

And thanks to the leadership and staff, Fabricio and Eduardo, of Jobs with Justice for this award, and especially for building this vibrant, boisterous, diverse and very effective organization premised on our most fundamental labor principle - solidarity.

Finally, though she’s not here tonight, I want to thank my Mother, Marianne Black. Because it is my Republican, Episcopalian Mom who taught me social and economic justice values from the time I could speak, and that working for those values is the truest labor of love. In this, as in all things, she was right.

Thank you all so much.


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