In honor of Clean Water Action's 50th birthday, we are lifting up voices and stories in the Clean Water movement through #CleanWater50Stories.
Our story is the story of everyday people who have used their power to make a difference to create a healthier and greener future for all.
Meet Winnie Zwick. Winnie is the daughter of the late David Zwick, founder and longtime president of Clean Water Action. David led the study group that wrote Water Wasteland, and helped spur passage of the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. We like to think that growing up around Clean Water Action and her Dad has something to do with her lifetime commitment to justice and organizing.
What are your favorite memories of Clean Water Action?
I was born into clean water practically. My dad, David Zwick, founded Clean Water with a bunch of folks back in the early seventies and I was born after my mom met him in the canvass crew, I believe. And so some of my first memories are going to rallies with my family, having canvassing parties at our house and going into the office and seeing all these folks getting ready to go out door to door, seeing campaign buttons around the house. So that would be my earliest connection to clean water.
And then because of how excited I was hearing about canvassing all my life, I thought I have to do this. So when I was 18, I joined a Canvass in the Minneapolis office in 2008 working on the 2008 elections. And with my family with Clean Water Action always around and seeing how passionate my dad was about organizing, about making change. And it really instilled those values in me.
And I also learned about the environmental justice movements around how racism within the environmental movement and how that is holding us back from achieving important … achieving environmental justice in general, really I think got me interested and passionate about food and food justice. Going to school, there was a lot of farming around me, so I ended up doing a lot of work with youth and with farming and economic development.
And then that led me to an amazing organization in New York called Brandworkers that organizes food manufacturing workers in New York City, mostly immigrant workers of color and supports them to organize their own unions. And I was really excited. I worked there for six years and got me really excited about how all of these different issues can come together and how people can come together to make structural change in our economy and that affects our environment, obviously. Yeah, so those are some of the things that Clean Water Action definitely has influenced me to do.
What are you doing today?
Today, I am working at a private foundation in New York called the Foundation for a Justice Society and supporting the leadership team there and the foundation works on supporting gender justice and LGBTQ-led movements around the world. And this kind of intersectional approach obviously has been informed by all of these experiences including Clean Water Action.
What is your vision for the future at Clean Water Action
I hope for Clean Water action over the next 50 years to stay grounded in the history of the beginnings of the organization. That when I heard them told by my dad over the years we're so important to our country and exciting to bring this model of organizing everyday people and holding the government accountable and fighting for livable, healthy communities.
I would bring that staying grounded in that type of vision and that type of history, bring that towards the fights of the next 50 years, including obviously climate change, which is going to harm all of us, is already harming all of us and is so interconnected with water over the next 50 years, I would hope that I can see clean water continuing to build real trusting collaborations and partnerships with the various groups working on environmental justice in this country and beyond.
Special thanks to Winnie Zwick for taking the time to speak with us!
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