2012 Tribute to Change: Honoring Labor Rights Heroes

The 2012 Tribute to Change was held on Thursday, June 28 at the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel.

The event’s theme, Honoring Labor Rights Heroes, commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Bread & Roses strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, for which Bread & Roses Community Fund was named. Our honorees included six activists and organizations who have fought for workers’ rights by providing mentorship and legal representation, organizing unemployed people to stand up for economic justice, resisting closures and mass layoffs, and more.

2012 Tribute to Change Honoree Video

About the 2012 Tribute to Change Honorees

Kathy Black

Paul Robeson Lifetime Achievement Award
This award is given to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to social change recently, or throughout his or her lifetime.

photo of Kathy Black at protest

Raised in a North Philadelphia union family, Kathy Black has spent her entire career fighting for workers’ rights and building connections between organized labor and the larger progressive movement.

At a time when organized labor is being targeted by right wing reactionary groups and politicians Kathy stands strong in support of workers’ rights and committed to the principles so important to Bread and Roses.

And there is not one young woman in the Philadelphia Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women that cannot trace some success or opportunity back to its long-time President Kathy Black. She recognizes where the future of the labor movement lies, and encourages the leadership development of younger generations. She has taught many how to be feminists in the labor movement and union activists in the women’s rights movement.

Kathy first got involved in the labor movement at SEIU Local 503 in 1978 while working as a secretary at the University of Oregon, from which she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree.

She worked for SEIU for three years and then moved to the San Francisco area, to work for a union of public utility workers and health care professionals.  In 1988, Kathy moved home to Philadelphia and spent eight years representing New Jersey State employees CWA Local 1034.

In January 1997, she began her current job as Occupational Health and Safety Director at AFSCME District Council 47 in Philadelphia, which represents employees of the City of Philadelphia, the First Judicial District, the Philadelphia Zoo and workers at several colleges, universities and private non-profit social service agencies.

Kathy serves as the elected President of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women which she represents as a delegate at the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO.  She is also the board chair of the Philadelphia Area Project on Occupational Safety and Health, the vice president for finance of Philadelphia National Organization for Women, and secretary of the Philadelphia branch of the ACLU.

In February 2007, Kathy was elected as a national co-convener of U.S. Labor Against the War which was founded in 2003 in response to the invasion and occupation of Iraq.   Kathy has also played important roles in many electoral campaigns and has been a leader in major issue campaigns, including the Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces, which is advocating for passage of a City of Philadelphia ordinance requiring all employers to provide paid sick leave to employees.

Janet Ryder

Trailblazer Award
This award is given to an outstanding leader in community organizing who has helped to pave the way for others.

Photo of Janet Ryder at protest

Janet Ryder has served as a mentor and muse for countless women and people of color looking to become leaders in the fight for workers’ rights.

A beloved organizer in the Philadelphia region, Janet is a voice for the voiceless. She served at the pinnacle of labor leadership in Philadelphia, and in her role, served as a mentor and guiding light for young labor activists. Know as an honest broker, Janet’s legacy is as a connecting force between “the powers that be” and “the powers that will be”.

Prior to her retirement last September, Janet served as vice president of labor participation for the United Way of Southeastern PA and the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO.  She is a proud Philadelphian who received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Temple University.

Janet began her career as an educator in the School District of Philadelphia and then became employed by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers as both the legal services fund administrator and that union’s political director.  She also served as the political director for the Pennsylvania Federation of Teachers.

Prior to her retirement in 2011, Janet was a board member for the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board and the Philadelphia Parking Authority. Janet also served as president of Omega Omega Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and the PA Coalition of Union Women.

Although Janet has flown the coop with her husband, noted educator Dr. Martin Ryder, to sunny Florida, she remains deeply committed to achieving social justice in Philadelphia and the world.

Germán L. Parodi

Emerging Leader Award
This award is given to an individual who is beginning to make their mark as a community organizer.

photo of German Parodi at protest

Germán L. Parodi has achieved an impressive number of victories in his short career as an organizer and has proven that the fight for worker’s rights won’t be won with workers alone.

His hard work helping to establish the Consumer Workforce Council ensures that the voices and input of people with disabilities who employ homecare workers are included in the collective bargaining process.

Originally from Puerto Rico, Germán Parodi has lived in the Juniata Park section of Philadelphia since 2004. Germán is a college student and a former Vice Chair of Disabled in Action of Pennsylvania, a Bread & Roses’Racial and Economic Justice Fund grantee. He also serves as the chair of the Pennsylvania Consumer Workforce Council.

The Consumer Workforce Council is comprised of seniors and people with disabilities who employ their own attendants. The Council was created by an Executive Order authored by Governor Rendell and was the result of a coalition of consumers and providers of homecare services. Germán played a key role in the creation of the Council, including organizing press conferences, rallies, visits to legislators and educational forums for both providers and consumers.

Germán served as the lead negotiator for the Council in its negotiations with the United Homecare Workers of PA, a partnership of AFSCME and SEIU, which ratified a contract in April of this year; a key step to guarantee better benefits for homecare workers, and consequently consumers.

Germán has also been a leader with Philly ADAPT—a group of disabled rights activists—which is working to strategically close the Philadelphia Nursing Home and to provide wheelchair accessible taxis in Philadelphia.  Germán is particularly proud of his role in forcing the Philadelphia Housing Authority to provide vouchers for accessible housing and successful negotiations with SEPTA to implementing an ADA complaint phone line.

Philadelphia Unemployment Project

Community Empowerment Award
This award is given to a community organization, union or campaign that has accomplished a great deal for change, not charity.

No organization has served the needs of working Philadelphians–most of whom are not represented by any labor union–as tirelessly as the Philadelphia Unemployment Project (PUP.)

Since 1975, the PUP has organized the poor and unemployed to fight for economic justice. PUP has helped the unemployed link with coalition partners in the labor, religious, community civil rights and women’s movements to increase their power. PUP’s victories prove that, once organized, working people and the unemployed can be powerful voices in the city, state, and nation.

PUP has been led by executive director John Dodds since its founding. John is a native of the Philadelphia area and a current resident of Germantown, where he lives with his wife Evelyn. Inspired by the Civil Rights movement, John’s involvement in the fight for social justice began after college when he began to work as a welfare caseworker. Soon after, he was asked by PUP’s founding board to serve as its executive director and lead organizer.

Some of PUP’s most recent victories include leading a coalition to successfully raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage in 2006; launching an innovative reverse commute program for inner city workers; organizing homeowners to fight sub prime mortgage foreclosures–which in 2008 led to the creation of a national model program in the Philadelphia courts requiring mortgage companies to negotiate with homeowners prior to completing a foreclosure;  creating a public jobs program using federal stimulus dollars–which the state had been unwilling to use–to create over 12,000 jobs; and launching a national campaign to use federal funds to aid unemployed homeowners facing foreclosure.

Workers at the Southwest Philadelphia, Marcus Hook and Trainer oil refineries

Community Empowerment Award
This award is given to a community organization, union or campaign that has accomplished a great deal for change, not charity.

Oil workers at Washington for a Lobby and Action day

This ad hoc coalition of workers has proved the tremendous value of working together to achieve social justice.

When Sunoco and ConocoPhillips announced plans to sell three area oil refineries and lay off thousands of workers last fall, members of United Steel Workers’ Locals 10-1, 10-234, 10-901 as well as Steamfitters Local 420 and Boilermakers Local 13 and others came together in solidarity to fight the plant closures and highlight corporate greed.

This coalition of workers—which is still active—has organized hometown rallies, enlisted the help of local munincipal leaders, organized a lobby day in Washington and a 600-person march to Senator Bob Casey’s office to try keep the refineries open.

Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg LLP

Robin Hood was Right Award
This award is for an individual or organization making an outstanding contribution to social change philanthropy in the Greater Philadelphia area.

photo of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, and Feinberg

Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg is being recognized with the Robin Hood was Right Award for their generous financial support for Bread & Roses as well as the thousands of hours of pro bono legal representation they have provided to the grassroots organizations Bread & Roses helps to fund.

Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg is a private law firm dedicated to promoting the public interest, frequently partnering with non-profit organizations and seeking to litigate matters that will result in broad benefits to underrepresented members of the region. They have been at the forefront of the field in the litigation of cases vindicating civil rights and liberties including including police misconduct, the rights of prisoners, free speech, and unlawful discrimination.

The firm’s current lawyers are David Rudovsky, Paul Messing, Jonathan Feinberg and Dana Bazelon. David Kairys and Jules Epstein are Of Counsel and the office manager is Tanya Alexander.

Click here to see details from other past Tribute to Change events.