Farewell, Samantha

Samantha smiling during the 2014 Labor Notes Conference

Sam has worked closely with many of the best rank-and-file teacher-organizers around the country. Probably the best thing Labor Notes has done this decade is a project she nurtured from its infancy: the United Caucuses of Rank-and-File Educators. Photo: Jim West/jimwestphoto.com

This month’s magazine is bittersweet; it’s the last one with Samantha Winslow’s name on the masthead, as she leaves the staff.

It’s hard for me to imagine Labor Notes without Samantha. We started working here at almost the same time, eight years ago. Over those years Labor Notes and I have benefited enormously from her organizing knowhow; her excellent political judgment and insights; her keen mind and creativity; and her warm good humor.

Probably the best thing Labor Notes has done this decade is a project she nurtured from its infancy: the United Caucuses of Rank-and-File Educators. Sam has worked closely with many of the most dynamic teacher activists around the country to develop this network.

They were doing Zoom calls long before the pandemic made Zoom calls cool. Educators from dozens of locals come to UCORE to troubleshoot, pass around the best ideas, and develop their tactics, strategies, and demands—from bread-and-butter fights over class size and wages to bigger issues like racism and affordable housing—plus how to run for office and transform your union.

This network was soon at the center of what’s now the hottest sector of the labor movement, as teachers’ groundbreaking strikes changed the national landscape. Nurses, higher education workers, and postal workers are now working with Labor Notes to develop their own similar networks.

Sam co-authored Labor Notes’ award-winning book How to Jump-Start Your Union: Lessons from the Chicago Teachers and our popular training guide on the Secrets of a Successful Organizer. She must have written 100 articles over the years, often chronicling teacher union fights.

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She’s been a lead organizer of numerous Troublemakers Schools and several of the biannual Labor Notes Conferences, each bigger than the last—this year we were expecting 4,000 people before the coronavirus forced us to cancel. Sam helped make the plenaries and workshops shine, while behind the scenes her smart planning and savvy negotiating with the hotel were equally crucial.

ROSE TO THE OCCASION

Three years ago, Samantha and I took on a new role together: Labor Notes co-directors. We sat down over a snack to talk over this huge new assignment. Sam told me I looked pale—and with good reason. I went directly to the hospital and had my baby a month ahead of schedule, leaving Samantha to figure it all out on her own! But she rose to the occasion.

Over those three years, Labor Notes has grown and thrived. In 2018 we doubled the size of the staff, and you can see the results in our expanded coverage and the number of trainings we do. Last year we organized a record 14 Troublemakers Schools, plus Labor Notes’ first-ever Asia Regional Conference, in Taiwan.

Sam has always been willing to do whatever needs doing, including digging into the unglamorous administrative matters that keep an organization running, like taxes, budget, and fundraising. She's even gracious about the rigors of the Labor Notes editorial process.

It’s been a joy and an honor to work with Sam, and to learn from her. I’m glad she’ll always be part of the Labor Notes family.

Alexandra Bradbury is editor and co-director of Labor Notes.al@labornotes.org