Speech | Infrastructure · Better Pay and Benefits

Redmond to Steelworkers: We Can Overcome Any Challenge

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond delivered the following remarks as prepared to the United Steelworkers District 12 conference:

Thank you, Brother Gaylan (Prescott) for that kind introduction and for your leadership of this great district.

And thank you Jim (Kilborn) and the entire District 12 delegates and staff for your commitment and dedication to our great union and working families.

To Larry Brown for your incredible work for the working people of Washington. And I also want to thank Secretary-Treasurer (John) Shinn, brother Ken (Neumann) and sister Roxanne (Brown) and the entire executive team for your steadfast leadership of the greatest union in the world.

It has been the honor of my life to serve as Vice President of the greatest union in the world—the United Steelworkers. Once a steelworker, you will always be a steelworker.

On August 5 of this year, our labor movement suffered a huge loss with the untimely death of our leader Rich Trumka, the president of the national AFL-CIO. Rich and I were personal friends for over 25 years.

The secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, Liz Shuler, was moved up by the board to the position of president to replace Rich Trumka.

Liz is smart, tough and the right person to lead the American labor movement at this time. And the first woman to lead the American labor movement.

And I was honored that the executive board of the AFL-CIO appointed me as the new secretary-treasurer of the national AFL-CIO.

I am so thrilled to be here with you today.

Brother Gaylan and I got our start at Reynolds aluminum. We both know first hand the life-changing power of a good union job.

And I suspect you do too.

We know a union job is so much more than a job.

It’s a career. It gives a sense of pride—a high quality of life—good health care and the ability to retire with dignity.

And the sense of belonging in a broader movement of working people who are all working toward the greater good.

Steelworkers are making it happen. Organizing the workers who care for our veterans in Oregon. Oil workers in Washington. Chemical workers in Colorado. Food delivery workers and charter school teachers in California.

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

The health and safety of workers is one of our primary responsibilities.

The pandemic has pulled back the curtain. Workers in every sector are finding out who has their backs—who is fighting for justice, fairness and equality—fighting to keep them safe on the job. And it’s not the corporations.

It’s us—the labor movement. We have been there for workers every step of the way—in the most challenging environment we have ever faced.

And everyone in this room stepped up in a big way—all hands on deck—through our strength and solidarity.

We know that’s how we can overcome any challenge before us.

No group of workers has felt the pandemic more specifically—more personally—than our health care workers. They work long hours—under extreme stress and pressure—putting themselves in harm’s way to care for others.

Now look, half a million workers have left health care since the beginning of the pandemic.

And who can blame them? They’re exhausted. Burned out. Underappreciated. Done.

And when health care workers are overworked, patients suffer.

And yet, corporations keep making cuts—keep squeezing—keep trying to get blood from a stone. Keep putting profits over people.

Look no further than Kaiser. In the second quarter of this year, it raked in 2 billion dollars. Billion with a B. But instead of treating our health care workers like the heroes they are—Kaiser’s initial proposal was an insult.

We are all extremely proud of our Local 7600. Under the leadership of Michael Bennett and Norberto, they organized their members, built a strong CAT team and fought a fight that showed Kaiser the type of union we are.

But Kaiser picked the wrong fight with the wrong union!

The Steelworkers of District 12 organized—you mobilized—you joined together with our allies and partners—you were ready to strike.

And this week, Kaiser workers will vote on a new contract—with industry-leading wages and benefits—career training opportunities—better health and safety standards—and wage equity for our brothers and sisters in Local 7600.

You are heroes! And our union stood up to make sure you get respected like the heroes you are!

All across the country right now workers are rising up. Mobilizing and striking for a better tomorrow. And we are winning!

We have the leverage and we need to use it.

It’s critical for all of us to continue to organize—to keep building our capacity—and to keep engaging with our communities.

This is especially important as we enter national bargaining for the oil sector.

Our solidarity will see us through and we will get the fair contracts our members deserve.

And life-changing first contracts for our future members.

The historic bipartisan infrastructure bill that President Biden just signed into law will create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Western United States—good union jobs. Finally!

And the Steelworkers helped make this happen. You turned out across the country on the “We Supply America” bus tour. You talked to your members and elected officials. You campaigned and got out the vote in 2020 so that we have a pro-worker administration

the most pro union administration in our country’s history—a democratic majority in Congress—in place to deliver these investments that workers have been demanding for so long.

This bill strengthens our supply chains—critical for our cement, steel and aluminum sectors.

The bill strengthens Buy America rules to help stop the outsourcing of good union jobs—that helps our members and strengthens our national security.

It connects prevailing wages and high labor standards to the jobs created, and I know District 12 will make sure those commitments are honored.

And we need to keep pushing for the Build Back Better Act.

The bill includes a key piece of the PRO Act so union-busting employers who violate our right to organize will be hit with real penalties.

The bill cracks down on tax loopholes so the super-rich and corporations finally will pay a little more of their fair share.

It makes huge investments in child care and elder care so more working families can get back to work.

Major energy investments—this bill is an investment in working people and the long-term health of our economy.

This is our opportunity to build a better future for our children and our grandchildren.

We cannot let this opportunity pass us by.

Make sure your members see you and hear you.

Remind them that elections have consequences.

Remind them who delivered for working people and our economy as we head toward 2022.

Remind them that there’s nothing we can’t do when we stand together.

We’re part of a powerful movement at a historic time.

Now let’s build an America that works for all working people.

Thank you, District 12.

I appreciate each and every one of you and the work you do. Keep going and stay strong.

Explore the Issue