On Facebook, New Jersey State AFL-CIO’s WILD conference kicks off year-round fight for women’s rights

Women’s rights leaders embrace social media as a means to connect to women ‘like’ never before.

TRENTON, N.J. – Just a few years ago, the end of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO’s annual Women in Leadership Development (WILD) conference would mean mobilizing the fight for women’s rights the old fashioned way: Phone calls, rallies, direct mail and any mechanisms imaginable to stay connected.
Thanks to social media, specifically Facebook, the end of the conference now marks the beginning of a movement.
“The WILD conference was the start,” said Laurel Brennan, Secretary-Treasurer of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO. “With social media we now have the ability to unify and empower women throughout the year.”
At this year’s conference – New Jersey State AFL-CIO’s 11th – WILD launched a Facebook page and asked all the women attending to “like” it. At that moment, the physical and virtual words collided.
Serving as a means to unite women on a larger scale, social media has enabled a new generation of leaders to discover and contribute to the cause, while linking existing workers in a way that was previously impossible.
“I don’t really use social media that often, but more and more people are using it to get information and to stay connected to the cause,” said Donna Downey Smith, a rank and file IBEW member and WILD co-instructor. “At this point, not utilizing it would be a huge mistake.”
As a sign of the growing power of social media, the conference had used social media in previous years to arrange international partnerships that resulted in workers from the United Kingdom attending the conference.
“The use of social media, particularly Facebook, has really allowed us to connect women not only on the national level, but internationally as well,” said Michele Liebtag, CWA 1036 political and education director.
Designed to produce a new batch of leaders to fight the war on women, the WILD conference, organized by Brennan of the New Jersey AFL-CIO, helps women develop the strategies and leadership skills needed to advance the cause of equality and union solidarity.
Bringing together union women from all over the state and all sectors of the labor movement in an effort to win the war on women’s rights, the WILD conference has earned national attention as the premiere statewide union-women’s leadership conference in the country.
“What’s exciting about the conferences is that it provides a safe place for women to grow as union members and leaders,” says Mary Gatta, a senior research analyst for Wider Opportunities for Women. “The conference really allows women to contribute back to their communities and their jobs.”
The New Jersey State AFL-CIO is a founding partner of the 256-member Working Families United for New Jersey, Inc. coalition that led last year’s successful statewide campaign to increase New Jersey’s minimum wage, and was recently asked by legislative leadership to take the lead in a new effort for a statewide earned sick leave law – an effort WILD graduates will now take online.

Click for more information about the 11th annual Women in Leadership Development conference.

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