Elise Bryant - Black In Labor

Oregon AFSCME is kicking off Black History Month with our "Black In Labor" series, highlighting Black labor leaders from across the world. Some you may know, some you may not, but all will inspire! 

Elise Bryant is the executive director of the Labor Heritage Foundation. After retiring from her professorship at the National Labor College, Bryant launched a consulting practice, the E.L.I.S.E (Education, Leadership, Inspiration, Solidarity and Excellence) Consortium.

Elise began her labor activism when she joined the organizing committee of the IWW and successfully organized the college bookstore at the University of Michigan. It was through her activism in the local that she caught the attention of the director of the Labor Studies Center at the University of Michigan, Hy Kornbluh. He hired Elise, part-time, to coordinate a labor theatre project and eventually moved her into the full-time position of program associate for the Union Minorities/Women Leadership Training Program at the University of Michigan’s Labor Studies Center. For over 18 years she served Michigan’s trade union community as both an educator and a cultural worker.

A long-time member of the Industrial Workers of the World, Elise organized Michigan’s first Latino Workers Leadership Institute and coordinated the Michigan Summer School for Women Workers as well as the Black Men in Unions Institute. Her areas of expertise include Communication Skills, Effective Committee Training, Leadership Training, Teaching Techniques, Labor History and Culture, Diversity Training, Organization Development and “Arts as a Tool for Organizing”.

Elise was also the Artistic Director of the University of Michigan labor theatre project, Workers’ Lives/Workers’ Stories. 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 last year on PBS. Upon moving to the National Labor College, Elise made her Washington, DC stage debut in Theatre J’s production of Goodnight Irene and founded the DC Labor Chorus. She directed two productions of the labor jazz opera, Forgotten, in Detroit and in the Washington, DC area (see www.forgottenshow.net). Elise was the producer and director of the labor jazz opera, Love Songs from the Liberation War.

She was awarded a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Michigan. Elise is a lifetime member of the Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World) and continues to serve on the executive board of CWA/The Newspaper Guild Local 32035. In 2007 she was given the Hal Kellner Award from American University (AU) and the National Training Laboratory (NTL) when she graduated from the AU/NTL program, Masters of Science in OrganizationDevelopment. The United Association of Labor Educators (UALE) presented her with their 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award for her outstanding contributions to field of labor education. Elise was elected president of the Coalition of Labor Union and vice president of CWA/TNG in 2017.

For more information on Ms. Bryant and the Labor Heritage Foundation head over to https://www.laborheritage.org.

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