CWA and Sierra Club activists gather for coalition-building workshop

Groups develop organizing plans for creating jobs, protecting environment, and winning elections

Last month, organizers and activists from the Communications Workers of America (CWA) District 6 and the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter came together in Austin for a day and a half training to identify ways in which the organizations can partner in the fight for worker’s rights, good jobs and a clean, safe environment. Based on a 2010 pilot training session between Sierra Club and CWA leaders in Virginia, the Texas workshop was only the second such coming together of the organizations in the country.

Hal Suter, Chairman of the Lone Star Chapter Executive Committee, and Richard Kneupper, Assistant to the Vice President of CWA District 6, collaborated to select 30 participants from targeted areas across the state where CWA and Sierra Club have active memberships or staff. The intense training brought together folks from Dallas, Ft. Worth, Houston, Beaumont, Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and the Rio Grande Valley.

All smiles after the intense day and a half training

Coordinated by CWA Research Economist Ken Peres, the workshop provided participants an opportunity to learn about each organization’s history, priorities, and current campaigns in Texas. A critical component of the training involved a discussion of how both organizations have been battered and beaten back by a corporate-backed political and economic assault on our movements.

“We’re getting our butts whipped and playing defense. We’ve been on the defensive for as long as I can remember. When are we going to say enough is enough and start working to advance our own agendas?” said Kneupper.

By focusing on issues such as the anti-worker, anti-environment Korea, Columbia, and Panama free trade agreements, the ATT/T-Mobile merger and broadband internet expansion, creating good-paying clean energy jobs, coping with drastic budget cuts, and the upcoming 2012 elections, participants developed detailed action plans for communicating these important issues back to their local memberships.

Participants working hard to develop action plans on key issues

Bruce Walker, Chair of the Sierra Club Golden Triangle Group in Southeast Texas, expressed his excitement about the coming together of the two organizations.

“It was great and I appreciate the effort put into the training,” said Walker. “We’re already making plans to follow up and work with our CWA partners in the Beaumont area.”

Workshop participants left the training enthusiastic about the work ahead of them, such as following through on commitments to attend and present at each other’s local meetings, signing up as members of each other’s groups when possible, and executing the organizing plans developed during the training.

“We learned how much more effective we could become if we join our forces to achieve our common objectives,” said CWA Local 6137 Vice President Jake Tafolla. “We were awed by the potential. Walking away, I feel we are all looking forward to working together to build the strongest of coalitions for the common good of our communities, our state, and our nation.”

For more information on the workshop, future trainings in your area, or how you can get involved, send an email to cortez@apolloalliance.org.

Dave Cortez, Coordinator – Texas Apollo Alliance, member CWA-TSEU Local 6186
With assistance from Janelle Hartman, CWA Communications Department


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