Shuler: CSEA Makes Our Communities Stronger

AFL-CIO President delivered the following remarks as prepared at the CSEA Virtual 111th Annual Delegates Meeting:

Thank you Mary for your incredible leadership, and to Denise, Rich, Nicole and Ron, the region presidents and to all the delegates and activists. I’m so honored to be with you after you’ve had such an action packed week.

After watching that opening video, I just have to thank you CSEA for your resilience and sacrifice throughout this pandemic.

Your members have given so much. You’ve risked your lives. You’ve kept vital services running.

We see the signs in people’s yards and windows, but I have to say you were, are, and will always be essential.

And you continue to serve and strengthen communities all across the Empire State.

Because CSEA leadership stepped up for CSEA members, other working people are starting to see the value of joining a union, too.

They see that having a voice on the job means you can speak up for safety equipment and protections without fear of getting fired—and that by sticking together, we can make life better and safer for working people and our communities where we work.

So the question is, what happens next?

We are going to take advantage of this moment, and build a bold, dynamic and inclusive labor movement for the future.

A movement that is transparent and accessible and welcoming of young working people.

A movement that keeps pace with changes in the economy—like the she-session—the unequal impact of the pandemic on women.

1.8 million women were sidelined from the workforce during the pandemic to shoulder care responsibilities. Many are still on the sidelines.

Others are struggling in the gig-economy because, without child care, it’s one of the few options available with their schedules—and the companies take advantage and use “flexibility” as a way to push this kind of unreliable, low-paid work.

And women who do the work in the care economy—yes it’s overwhelmingly women, specifically women of color and immigrant women—have long been undervalued and underpaid.

Right now, care workers are quitting, as one worker said recently: “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.

Finally, and most importantly, we are building a movement that puts women and people of color at the center.

Because of the work we did in 2020, we are making progress on our Workers First Agenda.

The American Rescue Plan was a big win. Under the leadership of AFSCME President Lee Saunders, we made funding for public services a centerpiece of our pandemic relief efforts.

$350 billion for state and local governments. $12 billion for New York State alone. We are so powerful when we work together.

We look forward to introduction of the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act. We’re going to use the full force of the labor movement to get that bill passed. And if that means getting rid of the filibuster, so be it.

I believe we can accomplish anything when we work together. You showed that in the lead up to the Janus Supreme Court case, and in the days and months that followed.

You are AFSCME strong. And your example will help guide and inspire as I take on the challenge of leading the AFL-CIO.

This is a moment of incredible promise.

Support for unions is the highest it’s been in more than half a century—68 percent, including 77 percent of young people.

And along with the most pro-union administration actually encouraging organizing, and removing barriers to public sector unions, workers are speaking up and taking risks to reclaim their power together.

You know why there’s a labor shortage? Because we are refusing to settle for less than our fair share.

And like always, public service workers have been invaluable to our movement’s activism.

You helped pass the New York Heroes Act—to create a new Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Standard to protect working people.

And as we speak, we are doing everything in our power to get the Build Back Better agenda through Congress.

It’s trillions of dollars of investments in our families and our communities.

Roads, bridges and waterways. Rural broadband. Public transportation.

Plus paid family and medical leave, child care investments and universal Pre-K—that is absolutely critical infrastructure.

And for the first time, it will hold employers who try to bust our unions accountable, with real penalties. Not just a slap on the wrist, but real fines for breaking the law.

Everyone should have access to the life-changing power of a good, union job.

So we are going to keep pushing.

We are going to keep organizing.

We are going to keep thinking big and being bold and taking risks.

To organize the unorganized. To win voting rights and immigration reform. To bring labor laws into this century.

To build back better with unions.

It’s there for us.

We just need to reach out and grab it.

Keep going CSEA members! Thank you and congratulations on your 111th Delegates meeting!