Our Mission and Vision
The Southern Worker Justice Campaign’s mission is to educate and empower working class public sector workers across the US South to stand up for workplace justice. By building a mass movement of Black, Brown, and immigrant worker-leaders across the South we will transform our national economy and social conditions.
The Southern Worker Justice Campaign envisions a vibrant New US South in which all public sector workers have union jobs with family-sustaining wages, safe working conditions, and job security, secured through their recognized right to collective bargaining.
The Southern Worker Justice Campaign (SWJC) was founded in 2021 by the UE Research and Education Fund (UEREF) to support Black, Brown, and immigrant public sector workers in the US South as they struggle against the economic legacy of Jim Crow. UEREF is the 501c3 sister organization of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), an independent, democratic, progressive national union that represents tens of thousands of workers in manufacturing, public sector and private service-sector jobs. UEREF supports a variety of programs to build new skills among diverse worker leaders, helping them fight for economic and racial equality, for a just transition, and to unite working people across borders.
The SWJC grew organically from the long history of UEREF and UE Local 150, the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union, working creatively to build power and organize public sector workers in the South despite a lack of collective bargaining rights. By establishing meaningful partnerships with labor, community, and faith organizations, our grassroots organizing has chipped away at the state’s power and won victories for workers. In 2006, we led the Raleigh Sanitation Workers’ strike, which resulted in a major victory for fair compensation and better working conditions and empowered workers to use the meet-and-confer process with the mayor to recoup stolen wages from hundreds of Black workers. In 2018, we organized workers in the state’s five largest cities to demand a $15/hour minimum wage. We then successfully pressured the Legislature to extend it to all state employees. In 2022, we won an $18 minimum for city workers in Greensboro and Durham and $22 in Charlotte.
Currently, the SWJC is working to educate, mobilize, and organize public sector workers in majority Black, Brown, and immigrant workplaces in North Carolina to demand a statewide minimum wage of $20/hour, establish job security via Civil Service Boards (which review disciplinary actions and firings and are essential to ensuring that workers are treated justly), and, crucially, to overturn the ban on public sector collective bargaining. North Carolina’s ban on collective bargaining dates to the Civil Rights Era and was intended from the start to disempower people of color. It is a core driver of institutional racism and a shame on the state in the era of Black Lives Matter. SWJC uses our proven methods of one-on-one conversations, leaflet brigades, rallies and press conferences, and bringing our people to city council meetings and legislative chambers to demand justice. We educate and empower worker-leaders to identify core issues around which to build a campaign, recognize and develop leaders in their workplace, build comprehensive communication and support, and use escalating actions to build momentum and win real change.
The SWJC also supports public sector workers in Virginia. In 2021, our activism resulted in a partial overturn of that state’s ban on public sector collective bargaining. Local governments now have the right to pass ordinances allowing public sector workers to bargain. So far, city workers in nine localities have won ordinances to form public sector unions.
By developing and empowering local leaders, we are bringing workplace justice to Black, Brown, and immigrant public sector workers across the US South. We focus on building worker power in North Carolina and Virginia because these states are seen as a bellwether for the South. They have the will to change and the capacity to lead change across the region. We are building momentum that will carry our wave of workplace justice and create family-sustaining, dignified jobs for all public sector workers across the US South.
President, North Carolina Team
Sekia is a line cook at O’Berry Neuro-Medical Treatment Center, a state mental health facility in Goldsboro, NC. Sekia’s activism is driven by her direct experience of the need for better rural healthcare and public services. Her daughter suffers from a chronic health condition, and lack of services forces her to drive hours away to access quality care for her child.
Chief Steward, North Carolina Team
Craig is a technician for the City of Charlotte’s Water Department and one of the first worker-leaders recruited by UE in the early 2000’s. In the summer of 2012, Craig organized weekly informational pickets while the Democratic National Convention was held in Charlotte, which drew international attention to the fight for unionization. His work was instrumental to establishing recognition of the Union by the City of Charlotte, payroll deductions for union dues, and a meet-and-confer process with the City Manager.
Vice President, North Carolina Team
Bryce is a street maintenance worker for the City of Greensboro, NC. As a child, Bryce saw firsthand how low wages and poor working conditions negatively impact public servants. His father worked for the NC Department of Transportation and his mother worked for the public schools, yet they struggled to get by. Bryce joined UE 150 to fight for better conditions for public sector working families.
Secretary Treasurer, North Carolina Team
Dominic is a technician for the City of Charlotte’s Water Department. As a youth leader with a passion for organizing, Dominic focuses his efforts on bringing young workers into the Union, where they can grow and develop their leadership skills. In 2022, Dominic served as president of the Charlotte City Workers’ Union and helped win a $22/hour minimum wage for all city workers.
Recording Secretary, North Carolina Team
Nichel is a paratransit bus operator in Charlotte. She first got involved with UE 150 when her bus broke down on the side of the road and an organizer stopped to help. Since then, she has led faith outreach for labor campaigns across Georgia and South Carolina, developed her leadership skills as a Movement Fellow with Jobs With Justice’s Advancing Black Strategists Initiative, and completed an internship with the United Steelworkers (USW). This year, Nichel helped organize workers at the Blue Bird Corporation, a bus manufacturer in Georgia in their successful campaign to join the USW.
UE International Representative
Dante directs the work of the SWJC. He first joined UE as a graduate worker at NC State University in the early 2000s. In 2004, Dante helped organize Black campus workers at NC State to join the Million Worker March in Washington DC, as part of a larger effort to bring the anti-Iraq War movement into community with the Black workers’ movement. In 2006, Dante joined UE full time to help organize the Raleigh Sanitation Workers’ strike, and has never looked back. He continues to build power for Black workers in the US South through the SWJC.
Chris met the SWJC during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic while working as a truck driver for a meat rendering plant in Fayetteville, NC. He helped organize his co-workers to participate in the “Safe Jobs Save Lives” workplace safety campaign. After leading several workplace actions and building a worker committee at his plant, he was unjustly terminated. While fighting to get back to work, Chris was brought on to the SWJC organizing staff to help lead our work to organize city workers in VA.
Lora grew up in rural Eastern North Carolina’s Black Belt region and has devoted her life organizing her community for racial and economic justice. Before joining UE full time, Lora worked at a state mental health facility. As a leader of UE’s cultural initiatives, she coordinates the Fruit of Labor Singing Ensemble, which brings workers together to document the history and struggles of Black workers in North Carolina and worldwide. She is currently completing the Organize NC Fellowship Program, supported by the Brighter Future Institute and the Movement Voter Project.
Field Organizer (Charlotte)
Kass is a former worker in the Charlotte Public School System and a Black Lives Matter activist. Kass is the founding director of Seeking Justice Charlotte, an organization that works for racial justice and police accountability. She has built deep relationships with many families who lost loved ones to police violence over the last decade. As a community leader, she helped establish Charlotte’s first-ever taskforce on policing and continues to fight for racial justice and police accountability across the US South.