At the Washington State Labor Council's annual convention, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler gave a speech about the future of the labor movement. Among the key things Shuler discussed is the labor movement's efforts to modernize using the best technology and techniques and a renewed focus on unity as a driving principle necessary for a successful path forward.
Shuler spoke of the importance of working people's voice on the job and the labor movement's role in protecting those voices:
Our number one seller is a great contract and a voice on the job. And we are the only watchdog out there that is sounding the alarms about how companies like Amazon and Uber are using 21st century technology as an excuse for 19th century labor practices. We won’t let them get away with it. The labor movement is all about innovation and disruption…but it must be used as a tool for broadly shared prosperity, not more corporate greed.
Building on the convention theme of "Resist. Persist," Shuler touched on some of the important battles nationally:
We are resisting the Republican health care bill that would result in 22 million more people being uninsured, including nearly 300,000 in Washington. We are resisting President Trump’s budget, which cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to give more tax cuts to the rich. With the help of leaders like Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Judge James Robart, we are resisting the Trump administration’s unconstitutional and immoral travel ban. And we are resisting attacks on collective bargaining, workplace safety and public education. So while President Trump may have won the election, he hasn’t yet won a single major policy fight.
She expanded upon the unity theme as well:
And while we’re talking about building for the future, we should also make unions the home of the people we used to call “minorities,” but who are now the emerging majority. We know the stats, that by 2055, whites will account for less than half of the U.S. population. We also know that a union contract is the best tool for achieving justice for ALL working people—but with 90% of America not in unions, and more young people unaware of what it means to be in a union, we have a big job to do to show the emerging majority that unions fight for them.
For example, women are half the workforce and will be half the union movement in 10 years. We need equal pay—let’s show that a union is the best way to achieve that. And while we’re at it, let’s move more women into the leadership of our unions to show that we are a movement for women. Young people need better jobs and less debt—we can be on the front lines of the college affordability debate and pushing for more resources for apprenticeship and training to show we’re relevant and a path forward for them. People of color want access to good jobs and a justice system that doesn't discriminate—let’s be their best advocate. Immigrants need a path to citizenship and protection from deportation. LGBTQ people need to stop being fired and bullied because of who they are. Let’s help the emerging majority connect the dots and show them that unions are the answer!
Read the full speech for more on the AFL-CIO's efforts to guarantee the freedom of working people to come together and negotiate for a fair return on our work.