Speech | Labor Law · Civil Rights

Shuler: Democracy Puts Power Behind Our Voices


AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler delivered the following remarks at the "March On for Voting Rights":

I’m Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO. We are the House of Labor, 56 unions with 12.5 million people working in all kinds of jobs across our economy. 

Thank you Fred Yamashita for building up the House of Labor here in Arizona. If you don’t know what a union is, it’s the official way to stand together with your co-workers to have more power to improve your workplace.

What does that have to do with democracy and voting rights?

To explain, I want to tell you a story from Congressman John Lewis, the great civil rights leader who was part of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 58 years ago today. 

Congressman Lewis used to talk about weathering a storm in his tin-roof house in Troy, Alabama. He was with family and through this storm it felt like the house would uproot and blow away. But wherever the house lifted from its foundation, one corner, another corner, everyone in the house would stand together running from side to side to hold it down. And John Lewis said the wind may blow, the thunder may roll, the lightning may flash but never, ever, leave the house. He said we live in the same house. Black, white, all ages, faiths, genders. We are one people, one family, one house. 

Well, in our house, the House of Labor, voting rights and workers rights are one. Every worker in every job can find a place they belong. And together, we are standing against the storm that is trying to uproot our rights, our freedoms, our very democracy. 

We’re facing a fundamental assault by extremist lawmakers on our voting rights at the ballot box. And at the same time, corporations are using everything they can think of to deny our rights to vote in our workplaces to stand together in unions. It’s not a coincidence. Where there are attacks on unions, there are attacks on voting rights. Because unions are democracy in the workplace, and voting rights are democracy at the ballot box, and both put power behind our voices. 

Like Congressman John Lewis said, in a democracy, the vote is the most powerful non-violent tool we have...and we must use it. And in 2020, we did. We elected the most pro-worker president and vice president in history. We elected a pro-worker majority in the U.S. House, and thanks to efforts like UNITE HERE Local 11 and CASE Action knocking on a million doors in Arizona and then helping get out the vote in Georgia, in the U.S. Senate. Now we’re leveraging our power to build back better. Keyword: better.

The House just passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act plus major investments in working families. Including a path to citizenship and a solid foundation for care infrastructure with credits for child care and the first ever federal benefit for paid family and medical leave. Care is critical infrastructure just like roads and bridges, we depend on care to go to work. And care jobs should be good, union jobs with decent wages because one job should be enough. 

But Arizona legislators are trying to take all of that progress away from us. They’re undermining the democratic process with a sham audit. They’re trying to overturn our votes while costing taxpayers millions of dollars. And in Washington, a handful of anti-worker senators are using the filibuster to prevent the change we voted for. They’re using it to stop progress for voting rights with the For the People Act and worker empowerment with the Richard Trumka PRO Act. 

So there’s a clear choice: we’re not going to sideline the hopes, aspirations and representation of the American people. Instead, it’s time to sideline the filibuster. This is about our voices. Attacks on voting and worker rights are targeted to silence and disenfranchise people of color. We will not let racist attacks deny us our rights, freedom or power. We’re raising our voices today and every day moving forward to protect our voting rights, to defend democracy in the workplace and democracy at the ballot box. We’re calling on both of Arizona’s senators, who we helped elect, to do the right thing. Sideline the filibuster. Pass the For the People Act, the Richard Trumka PRO Act. 

That’s how through this storm we will protect our House and what it stands for: Workers’ rights. Voting Rights. Economic equality. Racial justice. We will continue the ongoing march for jobs and justice that those who came before us, like John Lewis, took so very far. Every working person has the right to a good, union job. And every American has the right to vote! Thank you Arizona!

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