Detroit wobs help organize "Equity First, Solidarity Works" resource fair

This August, members of various Southeast Michigan unions, including the wobblies, came together to sponsor a unique event, a special resource fair called “Equity First, Solidarity Works.” The program, which combined information-sharing and networking opportunities with a panel discussion discussing the connections between civil rights human rights, women’s rights and the labor movement took place Aug. 29 from 1 to 4 p.m. at Dean Savage Park in Detroit.

The coalition sponsoring the event initial came together through the chance meeting of rank-and-file members of local unions who participated in the local Black Lives Matters marches that followed the death George Floyd, who died as a result of Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes while he was handcuffed and lying face down in police custody. The Organizers who included union members of the Detroit IWW, IBEW Local 58’s RENEW Committee, D15, Ironworkers and SEIU wanted to create an event that would help build bridges between BLM and the labor movement, providing opportunities for city residents to get involved with unions and encouraging unionists to join struggles for racial, social and economic justice.

The resource fair was preceded by an 11 a.m. solidarity march led by Detroit Will Breathe, a local group that has been organizing anti-police brutality marches in the wake of George Floyd’s death. After that a crowd of roughly 100 people wearing masks to protect against the spread of COVID-19 gathered at Dean Savage Park, next to Detroit’s IBEW headquarters, for the fair itself. Information tables at the park allowed participants to learn about local union apprenticeships, the Skilled Trades Enrollment Assistance Program (STEAP), sponsoring groups and other local organizations. The panel discussion featured speakers from STEAP, SEIU, A. Philip Randolph Institute, IBEW and the activist group Detroit Will Breathe.

The event was livestreamed for those who did not attend due concerns about COVID-19.