Labor Notes conference draws thousands of militant unionists


For decades the Labor Notes conference, organized around the slogan “put the ‘movement’ back in the labor movement,” has attracted union activists who want to do just that. This year’s conference, held in Chicago on April 19-21, drew a record 4,500 attendees. Many more workers, who could not attend after the registration reached capacity, watched the key sessions remotely.

Rally for Palestine outside Labor Notes conference, Chicago, April 19, 2024.WW Photo: Martha Grevatt

In past years, attendees came to the conference out of frustration with the class collaborationist labor bureaucracy. This time many among the multinational, multigendered, multigenerational crowd were more hopeful, due to the militancy displayed by unions such as the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, United Auto Workers and Teamsters.

News of the UAW’s big win at Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was greeted with spontaneous cheering. The union’s President Shawn Fain was given a hero’s welcome when he spoke during the final session of the conference.

International working-class solidarity was promoted in workshops with titles such as “Labor in the Global South” and “Mexican workers rising.” An Italian auto union leader spoke during one of the main sessions.

Five workshops and meetings devoted to solidarity with Palestine, along with an impromptu meeting to support the Columbia University encampment, were well= attended. However, the failure of conference organizers to have a single speaker on Palestine in any of the main sessions was a glaring omission. The militant rally for Palestine that took place outside the conference hotel was not officially part of the conference.

Some activists at the conference were frustrated by its political limitations. While Labor Notes makes a point of hailing worker-leaders deemed “troublemakers,” one participant commented: “I’m not a troublemaker, I’m a revolutionary.” Another described a workshop on socialism as “horrible” due to a conception of socialism that would merely reform capitalism.

Despite the limitations and contradictions, however, the Labor Notes conference was a positive event that brought together thousands of class-conscious workers who want to fight back against the capitalist class.


Simple Share Buttons

Share this
Simple Share Buttons