AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler delivered the following remarks by video to the Colorado AFL-CIO Convention:
Hello Colorado—I am honored to be with you—even by video.
Josette [Jaramillo], my sister—I’m grateful for your dedication, you, Mike [Williams], Dennis [Dougherty] and the team are doing a tremendous job leading the Colorado federation.
And to all of you, thank you for your resilience.
Through rain and heat BCTGM union members in Aurora stood on that picket line day in and day out and won!
You fought back against outsourcing and spoke out for fairness and the future of the American middle class and the entire labor movement and our allies were with you every step of the way.
Together, we showed every working person in this country what’s possible when we stand together in solidarity. Thank you for your courage and perseverance.
As one united labor movement we build pressure, grow power and we win progress.
And now the Colorado AFL-CIO is leading within a broad labor coalition to claim organizing rights for more than a quarter million working people.
Right now, most public employees in Colorado are denied the right to bargain for a better life. But you’re building on legislative successes for state workers, firefighters and agricultural workers. And teachers, social workers, sanitation technicians, health care workers in public hospitals, parks and recreation staff, librarians and so many more working people will benefit.
Keep going. We are with you every step of the way. Together, we are such a powerful and uniting force for good, all across this country. And we are building a bold, dynamic and inclusive labor movement to meet this extraordinary moment.
We’re already reaching into new industries and sectors. And I am so thrilled to say we recently added a new affiliate. With the National Women’s Soccer League Players Association...our labor family is now 57 unions strong.
Every working person in every kind of job can have a place in our movement.
And when I say we’re building a dynamic movement I mean we’re going to keep pace with changes in the economy—like the she-session—the unequal impact of the pandemic on women. And the Great Resignation—month after month, people are quitting jobs. And changes in our workplaces, especially as new technology is evolving and shaping our work.
The pandemic sped up rapid changes that companies had already been planning.
HelloFresh, a tech startup from Germany, is now the largest meal-kit delivery service in the U.S. During the pandemic, they doubled revenue and their executives profited. But employees struggled to make ends meet and stay safe at work. A pallet recently fell on workers in Aurora, two were sent to the hospital with serious injuries. That’s why more than 1,000 HelloFresh kitchen factory workers in Colorado and California are organizing with UNITE HERE.
But the union-busting consultants the company hired are already holding mandatory anti-union meetings. One of these firms is known for spreading conspiracy theories.
Most workers at HelloFresh in Colorado and California are people of color, so this organizing drive is also about racial justice. As a movement, racial justice and gender equity are guiding everything we do, including organizing.
Unions are one of the best ways to close pay gaps and fight discrimination on the job.
And to remove the barriers—like those union-busting consultants—we need the PRO Act, and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act.
Right along with labor rights, we are prioritizing expanding and protecting voting rights.
Because both are fundamental to our democracy.
There is no economic justice when the people who build, serve and feed this country are disenfranchised at the ballot box and at our workplaces.
That’s why we need a path to citizenship! And we’re fighting to keep that in the budget reconciliation package being debated right now in Congress.
And also in that package is President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, trillions of dollars of investment in working people and our families. With roads, bridges, public transportation and education. High labor standards on every tax dollar invested in construction with PLAs and Davis-Bacon protections. Paid leave and investments in the care economy, because care is also critical infrastructure.
We need it for those sidelined by caregiving responsibilities during the pandemic. And we need it to make sure care jobs are jobs with good benefits and wages.
Care workers are quitting, as one worker said recently because “The pay is absolute crap.” No one should have to sacrifice their health in this pandemic for a low wage crappy job that has no pathway to a better future.
We also want to grow our pre-apprentice and apprenticeship programs, because we know, our training programs are the gold standard and pathway to high-growth, middle class careers.
Congress is considering Build Back Better right now. But anti-worker special interests are trying to chip away at these critical investments.
We won’t let them succeed. We won the election and we voted for this agenda.
This is it. This is our moment. We have everything lined up right now.
We have the highest approval rating in over half a century. Workers are standing up and taking risks, in the workplace and in our communities. And we have the most pro-union administration in history.
I know you. I know our federation. And I am so hopeful for the future.
Just imagine what it’s going to be like when we empower every working person in this country with a good, union job.
Getting there depends on all of you. And what you do in these next days and weeks. So keep it going. Keep up the pressure and hard work.
Thank you Colorado labor! And have a great convention!