Women’s Empowerment Takes Center Stage at 2nd Annual Sister’s Keeper Summit

The AFGE Women’s and Fair Practices Departments recently held their 2nd Annual Sister’s Keeper Summit, an empowering event created for the women of AFGE by the women of AFGE.

Women-identifying participants engaged in workshops designed to empower them in all facets of their lives from health and wellness, to running for non-partisan office, to also being leaders in the labor movement. Coordinators with the AFGE Human Rights Committee and Y.O.U.N.G. Committee facilitated workshops on these important topics and held additional sessions related to systemic racism and women veterans’ issues.

"The Sister's Keeper Summit was a very powerful experience for me,” said AFGE District 9 PRIDE Coordinator Mae apGovannon. “I appreciated hearing from women of different backgrounds, their history and experiences, and the passion of older and younger women alike to keep fighting for equity and inclusion for us all. I am inspired to keep listening, to keep learning and to stand up for myself and for other women.”

The summit welcomed more than 200 participants over three days and included powerful remarks from Coalition of Labor Union Women President Elise Bryant and Samone Ijoma from the National Women’s Law Center. Participants also heard from AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler and Rep. Lucy McBath(D-Ga.) via video messages.

“If you look at any civil, human, or labor rights movement taking place currently or even throughout history, you will find that women are leading the way, empowering other women through sisterhood to be the change they wish to see in the world,” said AFGE National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices Jeremy Lannan. “The Sister’s Keeper Summit was born in that spirit — it’s a space in which AFGE women can feel empowered, inspired, and safe to discuss issues that primarily affect them as women in the workplace, the community, and in the labor movement.”

The summit concluded with a dynamic panel discussion titled “Breaking the Glass Ceiling” and the presentation of the AFGE Woman of Labor Awards. These awards were given to six women leaders of AFGE who demonstrate leadership, activism, and commitment to the labor movement.

The AFGE Woman of Labor Award recipients include: 

Paula Schelling-Soldner, chair of the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals 

“Breaking the ceiling to be the first woman elected to be the National Joint Council Chairperson along with the Woman of Labor Award is humbling for me. As a union representative since 1998 my goal has been to help and listen to the concerns of the people. Our fight continues on but I’m proud to be my Sister's Keeper,” said Schelling-Soldner.  

Dr. Kristan A. Morgan, president of AFGE BOP Local 1570 

“The Woman of Labor award means so much to me because it’s great to finally see women recognized for our role in the labor movement. While women haven’t always been the face of the movement, we’ve always been the driving force behind it. The AFGE Sister’s Keeper Summit provided women with the environment to empower, uplift, and encourage one another to continue to do the great work we always do in the name of Labor,” said Morgan. 

Virginia (Ginger) Hemingway, retired activist of AFGE DoD Local 2433 

“The summit was so much more than I expected — with powerful speakers and great participation! The way the team reached out to the attendees seemed to create a safe place for us. I am so very, very honored to be in the company of labor trailblazers — women who continue to show up in the name of equity for all. Thank you AFGE for the recognition of my labor of love. I will cherish it forever,” said Hemingway. 

Angela Digeronimo, president of AFGE SSA Local 2369 and regional vice president of SSA Council 220-NY Region 

“I am honored to receive a Woman of Labor award. If my journey can inspire and encourage other women to dare to be bold and not be limited by any boundaries, my journey will be that much more meaningful. Women have the power within themselves to accomplish anything they set their minds to do. Let’s reach for the stars and shine brighter each day! Thank you for the recognition and encouragement to always do better,” said Digeronimo. 

Danielle Spooner, president of AFGE CIS Council 119 

"It is an honor to have been selected as a Woman of Labor Award recipient for 2021. To be honest, serving as a council president during 2020 was a challenge. The strength of all members of the council and earning their trust was how we made it through and why we exist today," said Spooner.

Concetta (Cetta) Fialkowsk, president of AFGE TSA Local 1234 and women’s coordinator for AFGE TSA Council 100 

Materials from the summit including PowerPoints, handouts, and social media graphics can be found here. Activists are also encouraged to join the AFGE Sister’s Keeper community on Facebook.  

“I am honored to continue the pledge of being my sister’s keeper and strongly encourage my brothers of AFGE to do the same,” said Lannan. 

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