Jesse Wilderman

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jesse wilderman“I come from a long line of social justice activists. My grandfather was a union attorney during the time when workers were struggling in the streets just for the basic right to organise. My parents left behind more simple paths to spend their early years battling coal companies in the hollers of Eastern Kentucky. I was on picket lines and protests before I could walk. So it’s not a wonder that I grew up thinking that something was wrong in the world. But it wasn’t until I got a job working in a sheet metal factory where we tried to form a union that I understood that I wanted to be an organiser. I will never forget our first organising committee meeting—the mix of fear, anticipation, excitement—with 30 of us from the plant sitting around the old folding tables of the union hall. And the first time the boss, who had never bothered to notice us before, called us into anti-union meetings, a combination of apology for not fixing our concerns mixed with a lecture of scorn and threats. And even though we weren’t ultimately successful, I saw for the first time who I was really angry at and, more importantly, that his power could be challenged in the most simple way—by people coming together.”

 

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