Non-profit seeks funds to energize local grassroots efforts; offers inexpensive event, office rental spaces
By RILEY WINTERS
The St. Louis Workers’ Education Society (StLWES) opened its doors at 2929 S. Jefferson March 27 and welcomed organizers, rabble-rousers, activists and community organizations to its first annual open house fundraiser.
StLWES, a 501(c) 3 non-profit new to St. Louis, focuses on worker-education campaigns, partnering with local union and community organizations to build a permanent culture of worker-education in St. Louis with a focus on communities of color, women and youth. It currently houses four groups.
Located in the former union hall of Operating Engineers’ Local 148, StLWES currently houses four groups: the Missouri/Kansas People’s World, Speak Progress, Labor Campaign for Single-Payer Health Care and Latinos En Axion.
MORE THAN A BUILDING
Supporters conversed on building the labor movement, revitalizing the community, increasing voter turnout, promoting growth of progressive small businesses and fighting for ‘”$15 and a Union” for low-wage workers
“This isn’t just a building,” said Rasheen Aldridge, the youngest member of the Ferguson Commission and director of Young Activists United-STL. “This is a movement!” Aldridge also serves on the StLWES Advisory Board.
Highlighting the evening, the sounds of Motown filled the air, as Precision took the stage and performed classic soul and R&B. More than 100 activists, organizers and rabble-rousers drank, danced and clapped to the rhythm while discussing best methods to help their efforts and the overall movement grow.
StLWES President Tony Pecinovsky thanked those in attendance, noting, “We depend on you to keep this building running, to organize our programs, to reach out to the community and to build a local, grassroots pro-union, worker-education infrastructure. Your support so far has been truly humbling. You make it possible for us to do the people’s work.”
The fund-raising ‘Open House’ raised $1,600, and an additional $1,200 in monthly sustainer pledges.
The next day, StLWES members and supporters gathered for a day of workshops and training, beginning with a rousing two-hour political discussion on how best to combat systemic racism and sexism, and the related topic of building union diversity – one of StLWES’s goals – by reaching out to African Americans, Latinos and women.
Missouri State Rep. Clem Smith (D-Velda Village Hills), a member of Machinists District 9, outlined the challenges working families face in Jefferson City, where the legislature is currently dominated by far right-wing pro-business, anti-worker politicians. Since 2010, Smith and a handful of working family legislators on both sides of the aisle have had to fight to stave off passage of so-called “right-to-work” and other anti-union legislation.
SERVING THE PEOPLE
“Year after year Right Wing Republican lawmakers do everything possible to try and strip the working people of their rights,” Smith said. “They want to make it harder to vote, to gain access to affordable healthcare, to join a union and earn a living wage. All they care about is profits. They serve corporate masters, not the people.”
Participants also brainstormed ways of building a stronger progressive, pro-labor community through voter registration and engagement, support for the Fight for $15 movement, developing a StLWES library and public computer lab, and providing more space for grassroots groups to meet and organize.
A PLACE FOR VOICES
TO BE HEARD
As one local fast-food organizer put it, the StLWES building “creates a place for our voices to be heard.”
The St. Louis Workers’ Education Society’s goal is to challenge activists and organizers to work together and think of new ideas and approaches to building a long-term movement for social and economic justice.
For more information, or to make a donation, visit www.workerseducationsociety.org.
StLWES offering inexpensive office, rental space to unions, community groups
If you’re a union looking for an event space, or a community organization looking to rent office space, the newly remodeled Workers Education Society (StLWES) building at 2929 S. Jefferson may have what you’re looking for.
A non-profit community organization, StLWES offers single- and double-office space for rent at below market value, with a particular focus on community-labor organizations that share its mission.
In addition to office space, StLWES offers a meeting/event hall with seating for 50, and smaller conference rooms for one-time or recurring events on a sliding scale.
For information on rentals, contact Secretary-Treasurer, Don Giljum (retired business manager of Operating Engineers Local 148) at 314-242-5477 or email email@example.com.
Four community groups are currently renting space in the building:
• Latinos En Axion – a grassroots community leadership group working for social and economic justice and humane and just immigration reform, and acting as a local resource to parishes and communities. (latinosenaxionstl.com)
• Labor Campaign for Single-Payer Health Care – a group working to increase and coordinate grassroots labor support for a Single-Payer Medicare-for-All healthcare system in America. (laborforsinglepayer.o
• Speak Progress – a project of the People Before Profits Education Fund, a 501 (c)(3), Speak Progress is national speakers’ bureau that provides progressive speakers, lecturers, teachers and trainers for colleges, universities, unions, community groups and churches on a wide range of topics. (speakprogress.org)
• Missouri/Kansas People’s World – a daily news website of, for and by the 99 percent. It reports on the movements for jobs, peace, equality, democracy, civil rights and liberties, labor, immigrant, LGBT and women’s rights, protection of the environment, and other topics. (peoplesworld.org)