Shuler: Democracy Is at the Heart of Steelworkers


AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler delivered the following remarks as prepared at the United Steelworkers Executive Board oath ceremony:

Good morning! It is so great to be here with you today!

Tom [Conway], thank you — you have not only been a force within the Steelworkers, but a  smart, savvy and strong leader within the AFL-CIO, and I appreciate your support and leadership so much. John Shinn, thank you for your incredible dedication and passion for our movement — and Fred Redmond, my partner at the AFL-CIO who I am so grateful for, and is bringing the steelworkers voice inside the federation now as Secretary-Treasurer! And to all the officers and the entire Steelworkers executive board, thank you for your service and dedication to working people across the country, Canada, and the world.

It is such an honor to be here with you today, swearing in day…where you pledge, before family and friends…your oath to the union and the members we serve…to be a good steward of resources…to uphold the core values of the labor movement…and to lead with direction and purpose so that the labor movement of the future is bigger, stronger and better than it is today.

As I stand before you there’s no doubt about our direction. We’re moving forward, to a future defined by and for working people. 

On the turnpike yesterday…on the drive up from D.C….my coworkers and I were talking about the democratic process in your union, and the strong tradition you have of every voice being heard. It’s at the heart of the Steelworkers, and it’s what we stand for in the labor movement – we thrive on democracy. Our contracts, our elections, our culture all depends on the strong voice of our members and everyone paying attention and participating. 

And that’s so important, especially right now. We are watching what’s happening thousands of miles away in Ukraine, we’re seeing the attacks on democracy there, and also right here in the United States. 

The basic right to vote and our right to organize.

Our electoral system is being undermined in the media, online forums, in homes across America, at worksites and yes, even in our union halls.

We are living in an America that has never been so divided. It’s almost like we’re living in two Americas….one America is being fed one set of information and the other America something else. 

Within our own country, people witness the same event but see entirely different things.

We get into these feedback loops on Facebook or Instagram and we’re fed content from algorithms designed to pull us in, and when we do engage with it, we are fed more of the same and it creates an echochamber…and when we venture out of our bubbles to talk to family or friends or our co-workers about an issue, the conversation can become challenging because our facts…what we believe as true…are so far apart.

Misinformation and disinformation is one of…if not the greatest…threats facing our democracy today.

It destabilizes our foundation and divides us from one another.

But the labor movement has a unique role to play. We are the only force in the country with enough power and reach to close the information divide and heal our democracy. 

We can be that trusted source of information.

And have the face-to-face conversations in the workplace about the threats we face. And we can use our workplace conversations to lay the groundwork and educate our members the issues and the candidates that will bring about the greatest change for working people. 

Because working people agree on a lot, even in a divided country. 

And it’s clear working people are hungry for change and refusing to settle for less. From the faculty and staff on the Pitt campus to health care workers at assisted living centers in Allegheny County. From the shipbuilders in Newport News to the health care workers in Southern California, and the ATI workers in communities across the Northeast. From refineries to steel mills to tire plants to the iron range; your members are in every sector of this nation.

Workers are using their leverage to demand fair wages and dignity at work. It’s up to us to build on this momentum to grow the labor movement, and reimagine an economy that works for working people. 

And it is our job to be there and provide the resources and services and support so workers can form a union and win those life-changing union contracts.

Thank you all for your strength and solidarity, for your activism and engagement. For your fighting spirit.

And congratulations to all of you for the honor you have to serve your union and our movement. Together we will be an unstoppable force for working people.

Everyone included, no one left behind.

And the path we’re paving is wide and accessible—everyone is included, no one left behind. 

Our power to get there depends on moving as one. It depends on our collective unity…with the people in this room AND throughout the labor movement.

Thank you.