Redmond: I Want to Give Back to Every Worker

Washington, D.C.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond delivered the following remarks after his election:

Thank you, Liz (Shuler). Thank you, Tefere (Gebre). Thank you, all. 

President (Lee) Saunders, I am humbled by your words. I am grateful for your friendship. I am committed to your cause. 

President (Tom) Conway...Brother Tom...thank you for everything. I will always be a proud Steelworker. 

Some of you know me well. Some of you know me through this Executive Council. And some of you don’t know me yet. I look forward to meeting with all of you. I look forward to working with all of you. 

And I could not be more proud to serve with the first woman president in the history of the AFL-CIO. 

I am the son of Curtis and Odessa Redmond. They were the children of sharecroppers. 

They were born in the Mississippi Delta and made the great migration up to Chicago in 1958. They came with very little belongings but a very strong desire to build a better life.

My three brothers and I grew up poor. We lived on food stamps. We shopped at Goodwill. 

But what we lacked in money my parents gave us in love. In hope. In faith. In an unbreakable work ethic. 

My father took every kind of job he could find. He pumped gas, was a janitor, and stocked shelves at the supermarket. My mother was a domestic worker. She woke up every day at the crack of dawn and took three buses to the far suburbs of Chicago to clean folks’ houses and cook their food. Every night she would sit at the foot of her bed and soak her feet and read her Bible.

No complaints. No excuses. 

I am standing on their shoulders today. 

When my dad got a union job at an aluminum mill outside of Chicago called Reynolds, it changed everything. We had more security...opportunity...prosperity. We stopped going to the free clinic. We got off of food stamps. And my mother no longer bought our school clothes from the Goodwill. This is personal to me. 

I want every worker to have that chance. I want every family to feel that joy. That’s my goal as your secretary-treasurer. 

And I promise you: no one will work harder. Work ethic is in my DNA. It’s how I honor my parents and this labor movement and every union member. 

We have a huge opportunity in front of us. And we’re going to take it. I promise you that. 

Liz (Shuler) and I are not the perfect officers. But together with Tefere (Gebre), we can form the perfect team for this moment. 

To organize. To mobilize. To win racial justice, secure voting rights and pass the PRO Act. 

To do that, we need to spend our resources wisely. Be strategic. Get return on our investment. And take smart risks. 

I am committed to continuing Liz’s (Shuler) financial transparency and accountability as secretary-treasurer. I know she will help guide me as I take on this new challenge. 

Brothers and sisters, the labor movement is my life. It’s my love. It’s who I am. You won’t find a degree on my wall. I followed my father into the factory. And it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. 

The fruits of my labor are bountiful. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. And I want to give back...to every worker...to every family...to every community. 

The author Isabel Wilkerson writes that the price of privilege is the moral duty to act when one sees another person treated unfairly.

So in this House of Labor...on this historic day...let’s act. For each other. For our movement. For our nation.

Thank you.