By Amrine White
Originally published by The Stand, June 22, 2022.
Earlier this month, the University of Washington wrapped up the first year of its new Building a Movement (BAM) internship program with an interactive Know Your Rights Training. The 11 BAM interns taught other undergraduate students in attendance how to answer questions — like “Can my boss fire me if I’m pregnant?” or “What do I do if ICE comes into my work?” — and highlighted the importance of intersectional labor organizing across Washington state.
The Building a Movement Program was started in fall 2021 by the University of Washington’s Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies faculty, students, and sponsors using the Washington State Labor Council’s Union Summer Program as a source of inspiration. Today it is led by Yasmin Ahmed, Soohyung Hur, and Andrew Hedden. It is the university’s first paid internship program that connects undergraduate students with the local labor movement through partnerships with community organizations engaged with organizing work on a variety of levels. Students interested in labor and social justice advocacy are given the opportunity to explore how organizations work to make systemic and community level changes for the benefit of working people, and throughout their time with BAM, make meaningful contributions to that process.
For its pilot year, the Building a Movement Program partnered with organizations including the Washington State Labor Council’s Race and Labor Program, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, MLK Labor, the Massage Parlor Outreach Project, and the Washington Labor Education and Research Center, among others.
Students engaged in a variety of research, popular education, translation, and organizing projects with their host organizations and they attended regular classes with the University of Washington to help supplement their work. These classes were chosen by the students themselves and covered topics such as union law, immigration, incarcerated labor, lobbying, healthcare, housing, mutual aid, and racial equity. Interns also had the opportunity to hear from and collaborate with a number of community members including JM Wong, Dean Spade, Nikkita Oliver, Cindy Domingo, and Quinn Rao about their experiences with the labor movement and social justice.
The interns who participated in the program spoke highly of their experiences working with their host organizations and the Bridges Center.
“BAM was a great source for someone who didn’t know where to start,” said Erika Olmos, a third-year UW student and an intern with the Legacy of Equality, Leadership, and Organizing (LELO). “In the future I hope to continue labor organizing with different individuals from my community because I have seen that what I learned through BAM and my host organization has a true impact on working class communities.”
BAM was a great source for someone who didn’t know where to start... I have seen that what I learned through BAM and my host organization has a true impact on working class communities.
The Building a Movement Program will continue strongly into the 2022-2023 year with hopes from staff to expand the program to the UW Bothell and Tacoma campuses as well.
“We would love to expand our offerings among host organizations as well as continue to envision how students can work collectively to organize events that are critical for the community,” said Yasmin Ahmed, Assistant Director of Student and Community Engagement for the Bridges Center. “We would also like to universalize developing research skills and giving students a broader context in history of the intersectionality within the labor movement — this is sometimes left out of conversations around labor organizing.”
A big thank you to Yasmin Ahmed, Andrew Hedden, and Soohyung Hur for spearheading the Building a Movement pilot program this year. We would also like to thank Cherika Carter, Political and Strategic Campaigns Director at the Washington State Labor Council, for her unyielding support in the creation of the program.
If you or your organization are interested in hosting an intern for the 2022-2023 school year or beyond, please contact Yasmin Ahmed at email@example.com.
Amrine White is a Race & Labor Intern with the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. The Building a Movement Labor Internship is a paid internship program that connects undergraduate students at the University of Washington with the local labor movement, through partnerships with community organizations engaged with this work on a variety of levels. The WSLC Race & Labor program is committed to racial and economic justice inside the labor movement and in our communities.