Labor Wins at Labor Notes 2024

This year’s Labor Notes Conference was held in Rosemont, Illinois, a village-sized expanse of concrete, hotels, and parking lots on the edge of Chicago that has been run as a one-party state since its incorporation in 1956. Alongside 4,500 other union members, activists, and workers, nearly twenty of us from the National Writers Union descended upon the Hyatt Regency to learn, teach, and reflect upon what appears to be the biggest upsurge of organized labor in decades.

We came from around the country—the East Coast, the South, the Midwest—and represented various NWU chapters and divisions, with the Freelance Solidarity Project sending the most people. NWU members presented and/or facilitated workshops on media workers’ free speech rights and Palestine; organizing in high-turnover workplaces; building campus coalitions; remote organizing; and using legislative wins to build worker power. FSP members, along with NewsGuild and WGA members, also coordinated a media workers meetup, and a media workers happy hour co-hosted with the Headline Club in downtown Chicago was a huge success, even if you don’t count the showstopper karaoke session that came later (by those of us who weren’t quite ready for bed).

There were around 250 workshops and meetings to choose from over the course of two and a half days. The two full days ran twelve hours each—and that’s just what was on the official schedule. It was cold, the food was mostly bad and always expensive, and the bars opened late and closed early. You spent an inordinate amount of time waiting for pedestrian signals at crosswalks. The conference space itself was dangerously overcrowded. The cops arrested people at a rally for Palestine held outside the Hyatt Regency. All of this made for many, many overwhelmed and exhausted conference-goers, your correspondent included, but the excitement and solidarity we all felt sustained us. Indeed, it’s what we came for: to meet and befriend and debate with the people who, like us, are doing their utmost to turn organized labor in this country around by building fighting, democratic unions.

Those of us from the National Writers Union who attended Labor Notes will take what we learned—be it tactics, strategies, or the simple joy of getting to know and spend time with our comrades—and share it with our union siblings, and all of us will put it into practice together. That, after all, is how we’ll make our union into an ever more “assertive, militant, pugnacious” movement, as the NWU t-shirts we wore at the conference so proudly proclaimed.

This post was written by Texas member and at-large delegate Dave Smith.