Happy Labor Spring! This month, in celebration of workers and worker organizing efforts happening in Wisconsin and across the country, we have exciting updates to share on Labor Spring activities supported by COWS and our partners.
On April 22, in collaboration with the Havens Wright Center for Social Justice, Worker Justice Wisconsin, Kids Forward, Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Organization (MASH), University Labor Council, UW-Madison School for Workers, and The Crossing Campus Ministry, COWS hosted a panel and workshop on worker organizing on campus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The event, Worker Organizing on Campus and Beyond, was one of nearly 100 Labor Spring 2023 events held across the country this March and April. Labor Spring events included worker justice teach-ins, teach-outs, and actions on campuses, both in schools and in communities. Our panel and workshop was developed in the spirit of continuation of our Union and Workers Organizing features on the State of Working Wisconsin 2022.
The opening panel featured Madison and Milwaukee workers organizing to improve their jobs, including Olivia Ligman and Omonofe Osifo, UW-Madison students who work on campus, Lilia Garcia, a seamstress formerly employed by Crushin’ It Apparel, and Peter Rickman, president of MASH.
Osifo and Ligma are actively building the Student Workers Rights Coalition. Osifo, who works in a dining hall on campus said, “It’s not the best environment to work in, and it would be really nice to see some change. We’ve gone from being fully staffed at the beginning of the school year to being very understaffed right now.”
Lilia Garcia provided an off-campus worker perspective. “The first thing when starting to organize is to recognize the fact that you might lose your job,” said Garcia. “Once you are at peace with that, you can move forward.”
Worker Justice Wisconsin organizers Robert Christl and Frida Ballard conducted a training session on the basics of organizing to introduce the basic tools to initiate conversations about work and organizing to improve it..
“Colleges run on student labor. I think that students as workers get taken advantage of, and that they have tremendous power to build a more just higher ed system,” said Christl. “Get organized. There’s a ton of organizations that exist to help. Reach out to Worker Justice [Wisconsin], reach out to the University of Labor Council, reach out to the South Central Federation of Labor, there are labor movements here to help anyone get organized.”