Speech | Labor Law · Civil Rights · Immigration

Redmond on PRO Act: We Are In This Campaign to Win It

Phoenix, AZ

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond delivered the following remarks at a Labor Day PRO Act rally:

Thank you, Fred [Yamashita]! Thank you, Juan [Padilla]! Thank you, Arizona! It is great to be at IUPAT! A powerful union. Happy Labor Day, everybody! Labor. Allies. Elected officials. Our friends in business. 

We are here today to celebrate workers. And that means passing the PRO Act. I said that means passing the PRO Act. 

Sixty-five percent of likely voters in Arizona support the PRO Act. Are you one of them? Do you support the PRO Act? Do you support the PRO Act?

Our opponents got together for a press conference last week. Did you see it? It was full of fear. And lies. And propaganda. You know what that told me? They are scared. Sixty-eight percent of Americans support unions. That’s the highest mark since 1965! Our opponents know we have the momentum. We have the power. And we have the people! They want to keep all the profits and power for themselves. They want to deny us a voice on the job. They are counting on us to lose hope and walk away.

Well I have a message for our opponents. AFL-CIO President [Liz] Shuler was here last week. I am here now. And we are going to keep showing up. We are going to keep stepping up. We are going to keep speaking out. We are going to set up shop in Arizona until the PRO Act is the law of the land! I don’t care how hot it gets. I don’t care how long it takes. We are in this campaign to win it! 

Did you hear that, Senator Sinema?

Did you hear that, Senator Kelly?

We gotta pass the PRO Act. For higher wages. And better benefits. For safe workplaces. Retirement. Protection from discrimination. Equal pay for equal work! And no more fear of deportation for immigrant workers.

I know what it means to have a union. My parents 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 few belongings but a very strong desire to build a better life. My three brothers and I grew up poor. We lived on food stamps. My mother shopped at Goodwill. While we had little money, my parents were rich in love. In hope. In faith. In an unbreakable work ethic. My father took every kind of job he could find. He pumped gas, he was a janitor and he 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.

Then something big happened. Something that changed everything. That something was a union job. My dad started working at an aluminum mill outside of Chicago called Reynolds. He had that union job, and so we had more security, opportunity, prosperity. We stopped going to the free clinic. We got off of food stamps. We still went to our local Goodwill—only now, it was to donate clothes. This is personal to me. I want every worker to have that chance. I want every family to feel that joy. 

The PRO Act is how we do it!

Let’s be real. Arizona passed right to work in 1946. It was passed to keep people who look like me out of the union. How can workers organize in 2021 under laws conceived in segregation? Right to work. Jim Crow. The filibuster. Immigrants working in the shadows. These are all tools designed to hold us down. And we must dismantle them piece by piece. Starting right here. Right now. No more captive audience meetings! No more firing workers for speaking out! No more companies refusing to bargain a first contract! The right to organize! The right to strike! The right to build a better life for ourselves and our families! Just like my parents did.

Brothers and sisters, hear me loud and hear me clear: We are going to pass the Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize Act!  Are you with me? Are you with me?

Thank you! Happy Labor Day!

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