Dear Workers’ Center community,
We are excited to announce some bittersweet news and major transitions at the Southern Maine Workers’ Center. After five years serving as our Executive Director, Drew Joy is stepping down to take on another role in the organization. Our former Board Chair Meaghan LaSala will serve as the Interim Executive Director through June, and we (Heather Foran and Sergio Cahueque) are taking on new roles as co-chairs for the SMWC Board of Directors.
Over the summer, Drew took a short medical leave to manage a new chronic medical condition that causes vertigo and nausea. That time off was crucial for healing, but also made clear for Drew that they needed a larger shift in work load to prioritize their health. As an organization that values workers’ rights and health care justice, we are excited to be able to offer Drew a new role as Leadership Development Coordinator, focusing on supporting member development, political education, and skills training. Drew said in an email to members this week: “This is work that I truly love to do, but I’ve often had to sideline it in order to focus on the day-to-day of running an organization. I am excited about the opportunity to focus my time in this area and to see how it helps our organization to grow and become more powerful.”
Members of our Political Economy Study project have been reading the book “Towards Land, Work, and Power,” which talks about the important role organizations play in making social change. They point out: “While movements are always bigger than any one organization, organizations are critical pieces to the birth and growth of any movement.” Drew is a leader who understands this, and who has made it their life’s work in the last eight years to help us grow into an ever more powerful force in Southern Maine. As Drew says, we did this work together, but their leadership has absolutely been a guiding light.
Meaghan and Drew have been partners in this work for many years, with Meaghan serving as the Board Chair throughout Drew’s tenure as ED. Meaghan knows the ins and outs of the organization after years of dedication to our work and our mission. She is the perfect person to hold this interim role.
This leadership transition is taking place at the same time we are undertaking big shifts at the Workers’ Center. Since our Leadership Retreat in 2018, we have been focusing our attention on how to create more unity across the organization. The Health Care and Work with Dignity committees have historically functioned pretty independently, and we know that we could be even more powerful if we got better at making decisions and acting together.
We’ve already made a lot of changes towards that end. Last week, we launched our exciting new Joint Committee project, which had over 40 members participate at the first meeting! The COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis facing everyday people has highlighted more than ever how interconnected our issues are. For the next six months, members will join together from across the organization into a single committee to organize around a platform of solutions at the intersection of health care justice and workers’ rights.
As always, members will be in the lead throughout this period of transition. Already this year, members have figured out how to transform the way we build community and organize in a socially distanced world, supporting each other through this crisis while making sure our important projects continue to thrive. As we bring members together from across the organization to amplify our power, we know this is the perfect time to prepare to invite new leadership and new energy to help guide our organization to greater heights.
Heather Foran and Sergio Cahueque
P.S. Your donations to the Workers’ Center allow us to build an organization that is accountable to the vision and leadership of our members. Please consider giving and/or becoming a member today.