Speech | Civil Rights

Redmond: The Labor Movement Must Do What's Right

Good evening. I’m Fred Redmond, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO.

Thank you for joining us this weekend as we celebrate the legacy of Dr. King.

I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be a leader of the national AFL-CIO.

I am, at heart, still a regular guy—a Black kid from the south side of Chicago trying to navigate my way through life—working in the aluminum mill—getting involved in the Steelworkers local—and then leading it—and always trying to do the right thing for our members.

That’s the key. To do what’s right. Whether it’s for an individual, a community or a country.

To do what’s right. That’s our guiding light in the labor movement—our collective responsibility to make the world a better place.

That’s what Dr. King worked to achieve in the civil rights movement. To do what’s right. That’s his legacy, and it’s the legacy we inherit.

But legacies are not set in stone. They continue to evolve and take shape.

And it’s our job to shape them. It’s our job—the ones who come after—to embody Dr. King’s words—his character—his vision—and apply them to our time.

And right now we are living in a time of crisis.

The pandemic continues to rage and disproportionately harm Black and Brown Americans.

We are facing serious attacks on voting rights and civil rights and worker rights.

And the fate of our democracy hangs in the balance.

The labor movement needs to live and breathe Dr. King’s values now more than ever—to be a progressive force—to advance human rights—economic opportunity, equity and inclusion.

The labor movement remains at the forefront—to carve a path—walk it and lead by example.

For social justice—for racial justice—and in true solidarity for all working people.

In order to realize our full potential, it is critical that the labor movement is strong, morally and financially.

As secretary-treasurer, my job is to keep the federation on an even footing, now and in the future.

The AFL-CIO has 12.5 million members. We have to make sure those hard-earned wages go toward the resources we need to fight the good fight for workers’ rights to make sure workers are safe on the job and to support workers who are taking collective action for a better tomorrow.

That’s why Dr. King went to Memphis 54 years ago—to be with the sanitation workers on strike—and join them in solidarity.

No matter how big or small, each organizing win improves the lives of workers—and makes their jobs safer and more secure.

Each organizing win builds our capacity to improve our communities.

Each organizing win gives us more leverage at the bargaining table—in the streets—and on Capitol Hill.

To beat back racism in America in all its forms.

To reverse inequality.

To beat COVID-19 and protect the most vulnerable in our society.

To beat back the constant attacks on our democracy and to make sure all of our people have access to the ballot box.

That’s how we make meaningful progress for working people—and continue the fight in making America and the world a better place for all.

That’s how we shape Dr. King’s legacy—and in the process, shape our own.

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