Cathleen Ruth Deppe is Lead Organizer for California 9to5, National Association of Working Women. She first became an active leader of Boston 9to5 in 1993 to provide an organized voice for the struggling women in Boston’s “welfare to work” job programs. Moving to San Jose, CA in 1999 to teach, she helped found the 9to5 Bay Area chapter. Now living in Los Angeles to build a statewide 9to5 presence, she supports the new Los Angeles and Sacramento chapters as well. With a twenty-five year background in education and employment development, Cathy has broad experience in multi-racial labor/community coalition organizing, community journalism, and public speaking over a wide range of human rights and social justice issues. Cathy plays concert flute in the Santa Monica Emeritus Band. She holds a BA in Liberal Arts from the University of Illinois, and a Masters in Education from Duke University. Cathy is married to Alex Walker and has two daughters and four grandchildren.
Labor topics Cathy can speak about
Women’s Labor History, Gender & Labor, Organizing, Equal Pay, Know Your Workplace Rights, A Model for Conflict Resolution, Workplace Bullying, Grassroots Organizing 101
What union leadership positions (E.g., Officer, Committee Member, etc.) have you held and/or currently hold?
Grievance Representative and Labor-Management Team negotiator.
How and why did you become involved in the Labor Movement?
The single most important component of women’s liberation in a capitalist system like ours is economic independence. Women’s leadership in the labor and civil rights movements underscores our determination as women to secure equal rights, equal opportunity, and economic justice. The civil rights movement showed me the injustice of racism and took me into Alabama in the 60’s with other northern student volunteers; the women’s liberation movement showed me the injustice of sexism and gender discrimination which I personally faced as a single mother and brought me into the women’s liberation and labor movements. Finally, the wealth of inspiring folk music which continues to infuse these movements strengthens my spirit to press on.
What is the greatest challenge facing labor today? (You can cite your union as an example.)
I believe the greatest challenge facing labor today is this capitalist system, which produces endless wars, militarism, racism and materialism.
How have you made a difference in the Labor Movement?
I have the privilege of representing 9to5, a powerful voice for low income working women, and of working to insure that the voices of low income women are at the table, the board room, and the legislative chambers where decisions affecting the lives of women are being made.
What is your most powerful memory as a labor activist or leader?
In the 1990’s, I joined a labor march led by Rev. Jesse Jackson to demand union rights for campus cleaners. We encircled the walls around Yale University seven times, to symbolically represent the biblical Battle ofJericho where “the walls came tumbling down”.
What can students do today to get involved in the Labor Movement? (Be specific.)
Students can organize on campus and then join with community grassroots coalitions and labor unions to secure the labor rights of campus workers, including adjunct professors, secretaries, graduate student assistants, maintenance workers, and many more.
What labor leader, past or present, had the biggest influence on you? How/why?
Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and the United Farm Workers organized nonviolently among perhaps the most oppressed group of workers in our country and gave people all over this country the opportunity to stand with them in the Grape Boycott. I helped organize a Schenectady, New York “Friends of the Farmworkers” in the 70’s. When the UFCW leaders came to walk the picket line with us at the Albany Price Chopper grocery store, I was designated to introduce Chavez and Huerta at a small Schenectady fundraiser. I remember that I chose to quote powerful words from a favorite Woody Guthrie migrant labor song: “we’ll work in this fight and we’ll fight ‘til we win”.
How can students and faculty connect with you? (I.e. a link to your website, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.)