Redmond: We Need the Missouri Labor Movement Now More Than Ever

St. Louis

Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond delivered the following remarks as prepared to the Missouri AFL-CIO Convention:

Hello everyone. It’s great to be back in St. Louis.

I want to thank my Steelworker Brother Pat White for hosting us in this great city and for your steadfast leadership and friendship. The Greater St. Louis CLC is doing such a terrific job advocating for all working people and for being engaged throughout the community.

I know it’s been tough. The last couple of years have been one of the most challenging times in our history. 

And I’d like to thank Jake [Hummel] and Merri [Berry] and the entire team for rising to the challenge. For your commitment to the labor movement and dedication to Missouri’s working families. I know how hard you’ve worked.

From the right to work fight, to Prop A, through the pandemic to this very day, you have shown workers all across this country the meaning of true solidarity. And what we can achieve when we come together and stick together.

And America’s workers are taking a stand – while we put in the hours during the pandemic, it was major corporations who made record profits. And where did those profits go? Well - we saw the pay gap between CEOs and workers expand, so you tell me. Working people are only asking for what’s fair: a fair return on our labor. Safe jobs. Equitable wages and benefits that will support our families.To be able to retire with dignity. 

That’s what the 2,500 members of Machinists Local 857 did when they stood their ground against Boeing. They rejected the two-tier wage system. Said it was a non-starter. And they won a strong contract that not only improved their lives, but paved the way for future generations to have a solid job and a middle class life.

And workers all over Missouri – especially young people – are embracing unions as a vehicle to speak up at work.

There’s an energy out there. Just look at the number of union election petitions filed at the NLRB this year. It’s been through the roof. They can’t keep up.

And Missouri’s workers are overcoming relentless union-busting campaigns and winning. In all sectors of the economy. Google Fiber contractors. Cannabis workers. Library workers. Workers are standing up to demand respect on the job and strengthen our communities.

And Missouri labor has been there every step of the way. You’re organizing. You’re building capacity. You’re working with elected officials. 

Take the Painters and Allied Trades union in Kansas City, for example. They worked with city officials to pass an ordinance that puts an end to wage theft and misclassification. 

That’s a big deal. Because people are more likely to be ripped off by their employer than anybody else. That’s a fact. And those employers tend to target our society’s most vulnerable. It’s a labor issue. It’s a human rights issue. And it’s just one of many examples of how the labor movement is showing up for ALL working people.  

And it’s an example of how our state feds and local labor bodies are at the heart of our movement. 

You’re closest to the problems and so are closest to the solutions, and Missouri’s working people know you are fighting for a better future and have their best interests at heart. You have earned their trust.

We need to continue to build on that trust. Leverage it. And we have the opportunity to do so in this upcoming election. Because this year we’re going back to the basics. 

We’re going to have conversations with members at worksites. We’re going to listen. We’re going to hear what they have to say. Their struggles at work and at home. Hear what keeps them up at night.

Just like in organizing, we’re going to build that trust. 

And then we can point to the candidates who will address those concerns and ease our struggles. The candidates who share our hopes and dreams and who care about working people and our rights. And I know we’re going to hear from a few of them in a little bit.

Candidates like Trish Gunby. Working people in Missouri deserve a friend, a champion, a pro-union member of Congress. And it sure as heck isn’t Ann Wagner. Let’s send her packing and send Trish Gunby to Washington!

Let’s reelect Brian WIlliams – a proven friend of working people – to the State Senate. 

And let’s strengthen that chamber by sending State Representative Tracy McCreery to the State Senate!

And in the U.S. Senate, the pundits say we can’t keep our pro-worker advantage. But they don’t know the true power of organized labor and we have a golden opportunity to prove them wrong. Because Missouri labor is going to be the difference and we’re going to send Trudy Busch Valentine to Washington!

Because this November we’re going to elect our allies and retire our enemies. We’re going to elect pro-worker candidates up and down the ballot.  We’re going to pass the legislation and policies that matter to working people.
We know elections have consequences. It’s our job to remind our members of that too. 

It’s our job to remind them who passed the American Rescue Plan and who created hundreds of thousands of good, life-changing union jobs in Iowa and across the country through the infrastructure bill.

Remind them who is making major investments in energy and manufacturing supply chains. Who is lowering health care costs and making prescription drugs more affordable. Who is protecting our environment AND creating jobs with strong labor standards.

We may be the only institution with the infrastructure and reach to cut through the noise, to counter the misinformation and disinformation that has divided our country. 

And it all starts with you, our state feds and local labor bodies. 

And this is just the beginning. We’re going to carry this model into 2023 and 2024 and beyond. 

Because our members need to know when our rights – to organize, to vote – are being suppressed. Our members need to know who – at all levels of government – are threatening our very democracy for their own personal gain.

And these conversations will help us build our power. In the halls of government. In organizing new workers. And in our solidarity for striking workers.

We need the Missouri labor movement now more than ever before. Keep organizing and mobilizing. Keep being a force for working people. Keep building a Missouri that works for all of us.

Let’s show the nation what grassroots power looks like.

Let’s show America our strength.

Let’s show America our unity.

And let’s show America that when working people stand together, nothing – NOTHING – can stand in our way!

Thank you.