More than 300 union sisters from all sectors of organized labor gathered at the Hilton East Brunswick Hotel on March 1 for the 16th annual Women in Leadership Development (WILD) Conference. This two-day conference featured several distinguished speakers, including Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler (IBEW) and Alice Paul Institute Executive Director Lucienne Beard.
"WILD brings a multifaceted approach to leadership development through interactive education, mentorship and enduring networks of solidarity, and every year we are proud to add new layers to this foundation that reflect our changing culture and political environment," said New Jersey State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Laurel Brennan. "This year, the atmosphere of unity and sisterhood was remarkable as both first-time and longtime WILD sisters joined together to listen, learn and lead in the fight to strengthen our labor movement and nation."
On Saturday, the second day of the conference, attendees participated in two workshop discussions—Lobbying/Advocacy and Making a Difference: A Guide to Forming Women’s Committees—which provided the latest insights into building leadership skills and how to apply those strategies and tools to strengthen the collective voice of organized labor.
During the Lobbying/Advocacy session, attendees learned essential skills and strategies for making sure key issues are addressed by elected public officials. The panel featured a number of experienced lobbyists, including Kaufman Zita Group Senior Vice President Jeannine Frisby LaRue, CWA Political and Education Director Michele Liebtag and Assemblywoman Carol A. Murphy. New Jersey State AFL-CIO Legislative Director Eric Richard served as moderator.
The next workshop, Making a Difference: A Guide to Forming Women’s Committees, outlined the steps one would need to follow in order to form a women’s committee, get it established and assure support for its goals. The discussion was guided by the vast knowledge and experience of several women union leaders—including Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) Director of Government and Community Maria Foster, United Steelworkers (USW) Women of Steel coordinator Teresa Hartley, Utility Workers (UWUA) National Organizer/Women’s Caucus Chair Valerie King and United Brotherhood of Carpenters Chair of Sisters in the Brotherhood Susan Schultz—while AFT Professional Negotiations coordinator Jennifer S. Higgins acted as moderator.
"We were honored to welcome a distinguished panel of speakers and hundreds of our sisters to our conference this year," said New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech. "This conference builds on WILD’s tradition of empowering ourselves, our unions and our communities. And now, as we move forward, we will make sure that our sisters and brothers continue to lead the way in advancing a justice-driven agenda for all working people."
The New Jersey State AFL-CIO is the only state federation in the nation to host an annual women’s leadership conference. We thank our WILD sisters and sponsors for their many years of support, enabling our state to champion a diverse, strong and durable labor movement.