Sheila Cochran Celebrates Retirement at 8th Annual Community Fundraiser after 18 Years of Service to Milwaukee Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO
On Friday, May 19 at 5 pm at the union-organized Milwaukee Hilton City Center Hotel’s Crystal Ball Room, the Milwaukee Area Labor Council will gather at our 8th Annual Dinner and Fundraiser for Labor Community @ Work, our 501c3 organization. But this year, instead of hosting, former COO and Sec-Treasurer, Sheila Cochran, is the guest of honor.
From her $1.60 an hour wage at a daycare with no benefits, Sheila Cochran has made a long journey to retirement from running the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO. But she’s not done working on issues that challenge the working class, by a long shot.
Just a little over a month after her retirement, we asked Sheila, “What are you doing now that you are retired?”
“‘What are you doing now?
Do you just want to be a grandmother … or travel?’
I get these questions constantly. I think it’s because people look at your life in chapters. But I’ve never done anything that didn’t align with everything else.
At WRTP/BIGSTEP, I am the co-chair of the organization and am on two committees. I serve on the marketing committee and co-chair the Industrial committee We talk about ways to engage the community to get people ready for work. WRTP/BIGSTEP is a national model of a great workforce intermediary. It has literally won national awards and has received the dollars that go with that. We now work nationally and, especially in organized workplaces, work on strengthening the middle class.
All these things work hand in hand, like at Employ Milwaukee, where I’m a member. Here, the federal dollars are dispersed in the community. Those are critical funds for advancing similar sector strategies we see at WRTP/BIGSTEP, and I hope to continue to be a part of that.
United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County also helps with funding programs that advance this community. Accepting the position of United Way 2017 Campaign Co-Chair is such a big honor because the Metro Milwaukee area hasn’t had someone from labor represented as United Way Campaign Co-Chair in many, many years. It has been received well and I am really enjoying volunteering and supporting labor in this capacity.
1- about organized labor.
2- about organized money.
United Way makes our dollars greatly impact our community. To me, it’s the same thing we do in organized labor for our brothers and sisters.
At United Way, it’s done professionally. I’m not a fundraiser on my own; they know how to take small dollars and effectively bring them together to benefit the best outcomes in programs that help the community. As a retiree, this is what’s important to me.
For me, that’s what a lot of people miss. Organized labor in every local union, most labor councils, etc, are constantly writing checks to various organizations. United Way provides a way to quantify what we have done. It is far more effective in stating the things we do for the community. If you take the politics out, that is what we do.
That was exactly why Labor Community @ Work was established. We needed something different to say that we are part of this community. Even though we don’t promote it as a huge philanthropic organization, it provides a vehicle for us to participate in a measurable way. It allows liaisons to continue to do the work they need to do for the community and to advocate for human beings: Programs like human trafficking, fair voting, job training, education, and so on. Everything I do, including sitting on the AFL-CIO board, helps feed into this cycle.
The other part of it is that all around the community we don’t see enough job growth. I think there’s been an awakening nationally in the United Way and labor realizing that those are the things we have to do together. Not just the “fluffy stuff,” but digging down deep. What is it that people need? People need to have a decent job, a basic way of life. They need to have good healthcare, so they can continue that job. And they have to have education. As For those in the community that have more wealth than others? I don’t mind asking them to give. We have glaring examples every day that scream for an educated society. For all of these reasons, I continue to work with United Way.
It’s never been my want to be out in the forefront. This (2017 United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County Campaign Co-Chair) has been the most visible thing I’ve done in a while for the United Way, because they are so good at getting the word out to the community. There’s an awful lot that I don’t know. It’s fascinating to work with folks that know how to do this as well as United Way.
I know that I want to complete the things I promised. I’m doing them with my grandson in mind. I fought very hard for my family. In this community, I had to fight some bigotry just to buy this house. Now, I have a legacy for my daughter, grandson, and son-in-law. I guess that’s the way I’ve always been.
I’m not ever going to stop working on people’s right to vote. That’s just a critical right in this country. That’s why I’m a very proud member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) Milwaukee, as well as on the National Board.
Sooner or later I’ll find a little niche to do the things I want to do. I’ll do them quietly. For me, your life is about something and adding value. You gotta be there for something that improves the community. That’s what I believe.”
To purchase last-minute tickets online and for event information: https://actionnetwork.org/ticketed_events/celebrate-with-us-8th-annual-fundraising-dinner-sheilas-retirement-party