Ellen David Friedman

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Ellen David Friedman

Ellen David Friedman is a Vermont activist. She is married to Stuart Friedman.


Ellen David Friedman was born in New York City in 1952 and graduated from Harvard University in 1974. After moving to Vermont as a full time resident in 1974, she held positions with the Vermont Alliance, Chelsea Country Store, United Electrical Workers Union, and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Between 1986 and 2007 she was been employed by Vermont - NEA (National Education Association). She was a founding member of the Rainbow Coalition of Vermont in 1984 and was a member of its first steering committee. She was also elected National Committeewoman for the Vermont Democratic Party in 1984. She was active in efforts to elect Jesse Jackson president of the United States in 1988 and Bernie Sanders governor of Vermont in 1986 and U.S. Congress in 1988.[1]


In the late 1970s, Ellen David Friedman was a member of the New American Movement.

Rainbow Coalition

In 1986 Ellen David Friedman of Vermont was on the Credentials Committee at the Founding Convention of the National Rainbow Coalition.[2]

Socialist Scholars Conference

Ellen David Friedman, Progressive Vermont Alliance; Max Elbaum, Managing Editor, CrossRoads; Robert Fitrakis, Columbus Democratic Socialists of America; Irwin Silber, Editorial Board, CrossRoads and James Steele, Breakthrough Political Consulting Services were speakers on the The '92 Elections & Left Electoral Strategies panel sponsored by CrossRoads at the Tenth Annual Socialist Scholars Conference. The conference was held April 24-26, 1992 at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, New York City.[3]

1993 NCIPA National Steering Committee

As of Spring 1993, the National Committee for Independent Political Action Steering Committee included Ellen David Friedman.

New Party builder

New Party News Fall 1994 listed over 100 New Party activists-"some of the community leaders, organizers, retirees,, scholars, artists, parents, students, doctors, writers and other activists who are building the NP" the list included Ellen David Friedman, Vermont-NEA


In the mid 2000s, veteran Vermont activists Ellen David-Friedman and Stuart Friedman taught community organizing to university students in southern China while also quietly working with labor groups not sanctioned by the communist government. In 2007, the East Montpelier partners left their respective Green Mountain jobs — Ellen as an organizer for the Vermont teachers’ union and as vice-chair of the Vermont Progressive Party, Stuart as a clinical social worker at Central Vermont Hospital — in order to focus more intensively on their work in the People’s Republic. Their ambitious aim is to help mitigate the negative effects of the global market economy model espoused by Gov. James Douglas and the Vermont business leaders who recently concluded a joint prospecting trip to China.[4]

My fond hope is that I can work with people in trade unions and share my experiences in Western labor-organizing practices and collective bargaining,” David-Friedman says. Ellen, 55, and Stuart, 59, will return in August to the Pearl River Delta region where they have lived for a few months each year since their son, Eli, began studying Chinese there in 2000. The couple received faculty appointments in Guangzhou University’s social work department a couple of years ago because “social work is a new field in China and there was a need for foreign teachers,” David-Friedman explains. The couple will return to Vermont next February.
Though organizing comes easy to the diminutive, irrepressible David-Friedman, she regards the present period as among the worst of times in terms of workers’ movements. Still, that’s no reason to despair, she says, citing the axiom of 19th-century Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci: “Pessimism of the mind, optimism of the will.

Open letter to Andy Stern

On May 1 2008, Ellen David Friedman, Founder of the Vermont Workers Center and former VEA Staff Member signed an open letter to SEIU president Andy Stern in protest at SEIU move to force its local United Healthcare Workers into trusteeship.

"We are writing to express our deep concern about SEIU's threatened trusteeship over its third largest local, United Healthcare Workers (UHW). We believe that there must always be room within organized labor for legitimate and principled dissent, if our movement is to survive and grow. Putting UHW under trusteeship would send a very troubling message and be viewed, by many, as a sign that internal democracy is not valued or tolerated within SEIU. In our view, this would have negative consequences for the workers directly affected, the SEIU itself, and the labor movement as a whole. We strongly urge you to avoid such a tragedy."

On Chinese labor

Boston Democratic Socialists of America member, Paul Garver, as a consultant to the International Union of Food Workers, wrote an article "Chinese Labor: Epic Struggle in the Pearl River Delta" for the Democratic Socialists of America magazine Democratic Left, Fall 2008, on Chinese labor struggles. He thanked Anita Chan, Jenny Chan, Ellen David Friedman and Cathy Walker for their comments on the report.[5]

Labor Notes

In 2009 Ellen David Friedman, Vermont Workers Center was a member of the Labor Notes policy committee[6].

Left Forum 2013

Panel Title: From Chinatown to China - Building Grassroots Solidarity through Organizing

Moderator: Helena Wong: CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities


  • Ellen David Friedman: Has just completed her 7th year as a Visiting Scholar at the International Center for Joint Labor Research at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, where she teaches labor studies and is active in various levels of the labor movement.
  • Esther Wang Texas-born writer and organizer based in New York City, currently living on the opposite side of the world in Beijing. Most recently, she was a community organizer with CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, working with Chinese immigrants around issues of housing justice, displacement, and accountable development. Her writing has been published in Left Turn magazine, Racialicious.com, and the Austin American-Statesman.
  • Alex Tom: Chinese Progressive Association (San Francisco).[7]