The New Jersey State AFL-CIO’s 11th annual Women in Leadership Development (WILD) conference wrapped up this weekend with nearly 250 newly educated, empowered, and enthusiastic women headed back to their communities and workplaces to fortify the battle against gender inequality.
Initially designed to correspond with Women’s History Month, this year’s conference was held in conjunction with International Women’s Day. This allowed the conference to be held, “the labor way, with solidarity and sisterhood,” according to Laurel Brennan, New Jersey State AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer, who organized the conference.
The WILD conference brought together union women from all over the state and all sectors of the labor movement in an effort to win the war on women’s rights. The only such annual conference in the nation, WILD has earned national attention as the premiere statewide union-women’s leadership conference.
The theme of this year’s conference, “The War on Women, Unions Fight Back,” was woven throughout workshops that prepared women to be effective, efficient, and empowered voices to fight for a statewide earned sick leave law, and effective organizers in the workplace, among other skills. All workshops were co-facilitated by national AFL-CIO staff and New Jersey women from throughout the union movement, who will continue the work in-state to ensure the conference’s messages persist, especially in the fight for statewide earned sick leave.
For the first time, WILD became an interactive conference, with a new Facebook presence
that allowed participants to constantly network and share ideas online. That Facebook page will now be used to continue the core messages of WILD throughout the year.
“Through social media, we will ensure that the future leaders of our cause understand how each and every one of us is trying to benefit women in the workplace, not just during the WILD weekend, but every single day,” said Brennan. “These personal connections are vital to ensuring that we continue to educate and empower all women to make a difference.”
The conference kicked-off Friday evening with a reception attended by all WILD participants, several state lawmakers, and leaders from throughout the labor movement. Also in attendance were leaders of Working Families United for New Jersey, Inc., the 256-member coalition partner of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO, which spearheaded last year’s successful campaign to raise the minimum wage and was recently asked to lead the upcoming push for a statewide earned sick leave law.