The New Jersey State AFL-CIO Women in Leadership Development (WILD) conference remains at the forefront of innovation, economic empowerment, and promoting union solidarity. The two-day conference, held every March to correspond with Women’s History Month, has become a defining feature of the New Jersey labor movement, and is the only conference of its kind in the country.
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Nearly 250 union women, from all different sectors of the labor movement, ethnic backgrounds, and age groups, took part in the 12th Annual WILD Conference held from March 6-7, 2015, at the East Brunswick Hilton in East Brunswick New Jersey. This year also saw record participation from young union sisters, as part of the goal to “carry the commitment forward”.
Since its inception, the WILD conference has embraced cutting-edge approaches to building union solidarity and women’s leadership roles. When it comes to empowering the next generation of union members, WILD is already ahead of the curve. WILD understands that by recruiting, training, and inspiring our young union sisters, we become stronger leaders ourselves.
WILD was full of opportunities for all participants to learn, lead, and engage this year. Keynote speakers provided compelling insights into the state of our economy and explained the importance of taking control of our economic destiny. Dr. Mary Gatta, Senior Scholar at Wider Opportunities for Women, discussed her recently published book “All I Want is a Job!” which puts a human face on workforce development policy. Jennifer S. Higgins, AFT 1904 Professional Staff Negotiations Coordinator, discussed our economic surroundings and how to fight back against the Koch Brothers’ coordinated attacks on working families.
WILD also featured a Common Sense Economics workshop co-facilitated by experienced union staff and first-time New Jersey trainers. Through the workshop, participants learned that economic outcomes are not a matter of chance, but a result of political choices, which together, we can change. This was also an opportunity to develop actionable tools to recruit supporters and influence the public policies that determine our economic reality.
This year’s conference theme of “Forging Economic Prosperity through Union Solidarity” underscores a core principle and enduring goal of the labor movement. At a time when, working families are under unprecedented attacks, proper understanding of the economy and what we can do to change it is essential. As always, the WILD conference provides more than just an education. WILD cultivates the tools, relationships, and motivation to champion social and economic justice in our unions, workplaces, and everyday lives.