Street activist-turned-attorney Kenneth Page has joined Local 21 as the new Research, Communications, and Training Director.
He graduated from Howard University in 1992, and got his law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1995. Prior to, and during, law school, Ken was a community activist and lived in South Africa for some time; he was engaged in community organizing to end apartheid. “Going to law school was a balance between being an activist and being able to make an impact in a more mainstream way,” he said.
During his time at University of Wisconsin Law School, he helped set up a Haitian refugee program in Florida, and was the Director of the Black Law Students Association for the Midwestern Region.
He had some impressive legal achievements before becoming a labor activist/ lawyer; he won a death penalty case in Mississippi. “The lawyers there told me I wouldn’t be able do it,” he said. “When I told them I won, they thought I meant getting him off the death penalty. But I got a ‘not guilty’ verdict!”
Ken’s first foray in labor was while working at a law firm in New York; he helped organize low wage Dominican immigrant workers in the Bronx in 2002.
From there, he became the Director of the Legal Department at the Transport Workers Union (TWU), a 40,000-member local, where he worked 15 years representing public and private transportation workers in New York.
One of his proudest moments was being on the TWU Local 100 legal team for the September 2005 New York MTA strike. The Taylor Law makes it illegal for some public sector workers – like transit workers – to strike, but members voted to authorize the two day strike, despite the ban. “They were well organized, and there was a heavy cost in penalties. Our Local president went to jail for this strike,” said Ken. “I went to different strike locations and the support from the members was amazing. We decided to look the Mayor and Governor dead in the eyes and made a collective decision to not be disrespected. It was about economics, but it was also about safety and dignity at the job. I was proud of the members for fighting for fairness and dignity on the job.”
Ken is coming to us from IUE-CWA (International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers – Communications Workers of America), where he was the General Counsel for two years. During his time there, he helped stop a factory closing at the North Star Plant, just outside Chicago.A factory that made internal components for military helicopters was going to move to Arizona. Around 200-250 union jobs were at stake. Through bargaining and union activism, Ken was part of the effort to save 159 jobs through effects bargaining; some workers took the effects bargaining package. “I’m proud that I was able to help keep those jobs in suburban Chicago,” he said.
When asked what he was most excited about at his new position with Local 21, he said, “I did exclusively legal work for some time. I’m excited for the opportunity to be involved in other facets of the labor movement at Local 21.” We’re glad to have an experienced hand like Ken Page at Local 21, and welcome him into the Local 21 family!