AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler delivered the following remarks as prepared to the 2022 AFGE Legislative Conference:
Thank you, Everett [Kelley], for that kind introduction and for your friendship. And to you and Eric [Bunn] and Jeremy [Lannan] and the entire executive council for your incredible leadership of this great union.
Hello everyone. It’s wonderful to join you at this conference. I’m honored to be here today.
When I talk to people who might not be familiar with the AFL-CIO, I like to say we're a federation of unions and we represent workers in every sector—in every job imaginable—in every corner of the country—and that we look like America—that we reflect its rich diversity.
And the same can be said about AFGE. You do everything. You manage our forests and parks. You inspect our food and guard our borders and secure our air travel. You run our government. You’re scientists and doctors and nurses, law enforcement and correctional officers, social workers and technicians and everything in between. And you live and work all across this great nation of ours, which you serve with dedication and pride.
And many of you served our country in the armed forces.
AFGE members: You are this country’s true patriots.
And so it was twice as hurtful when your rights were attacked—your benefits endangered, your pay frozen, or denied altogether—locked out of your job because the Trump administration couldn’t do theirs.
But because of the work you did, we now have a president who believes in the role unions have in building a fairer economy and a more just society.
A president whose first actions in office was to revoke those hurtful executive orders enacted by the previous administration to limit your rights.
A president who appointed a union member as Secretary of Labor.
This administration understands the value of unions and is committed to making government work for the working class. And last month their Task Force on Organizing released its first report with 70 recommendations for more than 20 federal agencies and departments to make it easier for workers to organize and collectively bargain.
It’s clear who stands with working people—and who has tried to knock us down. And it’s our job to make that distinction clear with all of our members too.
We can’t afford to go backwards—where our lives and livelihoods are treated like toys—as pawns in a deranged game of chess—where the threats of a government shutdown or debt default are used as political tactics at our expense.
Our federal agencies need to be funded for the full year. End of story. No more of this continuing resolutions business.
Our country has enough threats to deal with the way it is. We can’t afford to manufacture crises that damage our national security and defense readiness—or jeopardize the safety of our airways and communities—or imperil the health of our veterans. The recommendations made by the Department of Veterans Affairs to the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission would do just that. Our veterans deserve the best care possible, and closing medical centers and clinics and outsourcing care to the private sector is not how they’ll get it. That’s a non-starter. We need to expand and improve our facilities and I know AFGE have recommendations for the VA on how to do just that.
We can start by giving VA health care providers full collective bargaining rights. Transportation security officers too. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t have the same voice on the job and protections as other federal employees.
Let’s get the Protecting VA Employees Act and the Rights for the TSA Workforce Act through so they too can experience the life-changing power of a union job!
Let’s get the FAIR Act through too! Your pay has fallen behind after a decade of pay freezes and furloughs and budget cuts, and what small wage increases you have received hasn’t kept pace with inflation. A 5% raise isn’t asking a lot.
Let’s make your demands known to the people in power!
Health care. Pensions. Paid leave.
Fair and equitable hiring practices. State and local funding.
We have momentum, AFGE! Let’s build on it.
Let’s grow the labor movement and reimagine an economy that works for working people.
Everyone included, no one left behind.
I can’t wait to see where we go from here.