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Coalition of Labor Union Women Prez, Labor Artist, Teacher: Elise Bryant - Harmony of Interests

“If you're doing it right as a leader you should have at least five people behind you, not one, not your favorite, but at least five people you can say, ‘I know this person's been trained. I see what they do’...you have to be able to pass the baton and let go.”

Welcome to the Harmony of Interest series where we explore ideas that positively shape our world.

Elise Bryant launched her labor arts career as the artistic director of the University of Michigan’s labor theater project, Workers’ Lives/Workers’ Stories in 1982. She joined the National Writers Union and began her screenwriting career with a script for the documentary, Porgy and Bess: an American Voice which aired on PBS. In 1998 Elise made her Washington, DC stage debut in Theater J’s production of Goodnight Irene and founded the DC Labor Chorus.

She directed two productions of the labor jazz opera, Forgotten: the Murder at the Ford Rouge Plant, in Detroit and in the Washington, DC area. Most recently she directed the labor jazz opera Love Songs From the Liberation Wars: the 1940s Tobacco Workers Struggle.

After working 35 years as a labor educator, Elise retired from her professorship at the National Labor College to start her own consulting service, the E.L.I.S.E. Consortium.

Elise is a lifetime member of the Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World), a member of the AFM Local 1000 as well as CWA/Newspaper Guild Local 32035. In 2012 she was given the Lifetime Achievement award from the international organization, United Association of Labor Educators. In 2017 she was elected President of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW).

We discuss:

  • Growing up in Detroit and using theater arts for activism;

  • Directing labor jazz operas;

  • Labor education and the National Labor College;

  • The role of art in labor movements;

  • The Coalition of Labor Union Women;

  • The Labor Heritage Foundation; and the

  • Future of organizing.

Empathy Media Lab is produced by Evan Matthew Papp and we are a proud member of the Labor Radio Podcast Network. Support media, authors, artists, historians, and journalists, who are fighting to improve the prosperity of the working class.


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