The 2014 CWA Public, Healthcare & Education Workers Conference brought 110 activists from around the country to San Antonio for a weekend of organizing, movement building and rallying against bad trade deals.
CWA Public Worker, Healthcare and Education Workers Vice President Brooks Sunkett opened the three-day conference, which also included a community forum on the flawed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
CWA's public, healthcare and education workers members meet in San Antonio. As part of the conference, participants joined in a TPP Forum with allies and community partners.
Sunkett talked about the continuing assault on public workers across the country, from challenges to workers' bargaining rights to attacks on public worker pensions and the privatization of important social services. He cited members of CWA Local 1040, who are working to stop the closing of facilities that assist the mentally challenged. "It's all about ideology, not cost," he said.
"It's good to be among brothers and sisters struggling the way you're struggling," said TSEU President Judy Lugo. "You're all fighting the same fight."
Speakers also included CWA D6 Vice President Claude Cummings, Texas Rep. Al Green, State Sen. Carlos Uresti, and State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor.
Attendees listened to presentations on fighting privatization, public pension challenges and the significance of the Supreme Court's recent Harris v. Quinn decision.
Workshops focused on public sector organizing, messaging, team building and the Affordable Care Act. While sector-specific teach-ins targeted healthcare, higher education, public safety and state and local government.
Public workers were especially engaged on beating back the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a wide-ranging trade deal that threatens the livelihoods and wellbeing of working families. A public forum on the TPP featured CWA President Larry Cohen; Hal Suter, chairman of the Sierra Club's Lone Star chapter; Bob Cash, director of the Texas Fair Trade Coalition; and radio commentator and author Jim Hightower. And it wasn't a public worker-only crowd – environmentalists, call center workers, advocates of fair trade and members of coalition group Texas Forward all joined CWAers in learning more about how the agreement could jeopardize our jobs, health, environment and more.
Activists walked away from the forum with a stack of reading material – and a sense of urgency to raise awareness about this dangerous trade agreement. "We really need to educate our members on this and get them engaged and talking about it," said Lugo.