In the US Labor Notes Conference Troublemakers unionists organise in their thousands.

“You can get depressed hearing all the stories of low-wage and immigrant workers,” Ahmad said. But at Labor Notes, “the energy is amazing.” Vision sharpens, and all of a sudden the movement that can stand up against the odds comes into view.

“From Cairo to Madison, 2011 was the year people stood up—or sat in—putting democracy back on the agenda,” Brenner said. “The game changer for most of us was Occupy Wall Street. 99 to 1—I like those odds!”

“Nothing is without sacrifice,” Shalaby said, recounting the strike wave that has swept Egypt since last year, and the revolution that claimed many lives.

Shalaby said his union federation is reaching out to the whole Arab world because Egypt is the door to that world. “We all live under one sky,” he said. “In Egypt we have a saying: workers of the world, unite.”
Union members from coast to coast are making it clear they’re hungry for a fighter in their corner. From the new leadership at the New York State Nurses to the second generation of reformers in AFSCME Local 3299 on California campuses, attendees at the conference brought plenty of reasons to be confident that rank and file workers see what so many union leaders don’t: that the power is still in our hands.

Fellow Verizon worker and CWA Local 1101 organizer Ken Spatta spoke Sunday on the long road of reform inside his union, which culminated in a takeover of the local in the wake of last summer’s Verizon strike.

The strike showed who the local’s real leadership was. With no warning, Spatta said, the local’s reform caucus put picketers on the street just a half hour after the national union called the strike. Reformers stepped up to captain picket lines and take extra shifts protesting at wireless stores.

The strike stalled, but Spatta said his local and the other fighters inside CWA and the IBEW are still working to mobilize against a company whose CEO makes $55,000 a day—including weekends. …

“Up, up with the union, down, down with the Hyatt,” shouted hundreds of demonstrators at a rally that filled a city block.

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