Next Wave Storms Detroit; Mystic Next

State Correctional Officer Millie Brown of AFSCME Local 387
recently took part in AFSCME's Next Wave conference in Detroit. Next Wave is AFSCME's effort to recruit, engage and educate younger and newer members. She was joined by fellow Council 4 members Deanna Chapparo (Local 538), Jack Cooper and  Brandon Dunn (Local 740) and Aaron Lichwalla (Local 387), along with Council 4 Legislative & Political Representative Matthew Brokman.

Here is Millie's reflection on the Next Wave conference, including a rally to protest Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's bankruptcy scheme for Detroit.

Everyone has seen the recent headlines regarding the City of Detroit filing for bankruptcy and Republican Governor Rick Snyder’s attempt to destroy the pensions of retired city workers and those who are close to retirement.

Now, it’s up to the courts whether or not 911 operators, water purification workers, clerical employees, and other public employees will receive the benefits they worked for and negotiated over. We can be sure that politicians in every state legislature and city hall across the country are waiting to see what comes out of that courtroom looking to use it as an opportunity to go after our jobs, our benefits and our bargaining rights.

I was in Detroit the weekend before they filed for bankruptcy along with 600 of our brothers and sisters for AFSCME’s 3rd Next Wave Conference. We stormed Detroit’s City/County Building calling on Governor Snyder – the same governor who pushed through right-to-work-for-less legislation last year – to listen to the residents of Detroit and respect workers rights.

It was clear to all of us, that we need to do more to protect our rights and our democracy when confronted with the job-cutting, pension-slashing anti-worker agenda personified by Snyder and his Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.

(Click here to see an excellent AFSCME video about our Detroit experience)

The conference was a great opportunity for Next Wavers (AFSCME’s newer members) to begin taking ownership of our union. Together we discussed ways we can grow the labor movement, learned strategies to defend our contract and collective bargaining rights, and heard from leaders of our union about our history. We also had the opportunity to meet with members from across the country to share stories of recent challenges we’ve faced and victories we’ve won.

I left Detroit determined to build a stronger labor movement. And that’s why I’m planning on attending the 2nd Annual Regional Next Wave Training this September in Mystic, CT.

This joint effort between Council 4 and Council 94 (AFSCME Rhode Island) will be an opportunity for us to focus on what kind of change we want to make in our local unions and communities. It’s an opportunity for the next generation of union leaders from state and municipal unions in both states to learn from each other and from seasoned members. Most timely, this year’s theme is: Activate!

Millie Brown, left, and Aaron Lichwalla of Local 387 joined Next Wavers in the Detroit protest.

Connecticut should not and will not go down the path of Detroit if we are organized, mobilized and engaged. Let’s get activated. Hope to see you in Mystic!