Shuler: Georgia Labor Made the Difference in 2020

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler delivered the following remarks as prepared to the Georgia AFL-CIO Convention:

Hello Georgia, I’m Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO.

I am so honored to be with you—even if it’s by video.

Thank you Charlie (Fanning) and Yvonne (Brooks) and the entire team for doing a tremendous job leading the Georgia federation. I’m grateful for your dedication and for keeping the labor movement focused on delivering for working people.

And to all of the leaders, delegates and activists: thank you for your resilience, your courage, and your perseverance.

It was on full display during the 2020 elections right here in Georgia. I know you might get sick of us talking about it, but I’m going to talk about it again—because you organized, you mobilized. And working with our partners and allies, we got out the vote. And we delivered! People waited for hours in the middle of a pandemic to vote and we elected the most pro-worker president and vice president in history and a pro-worker majority in the U.S. House.

But we weren’t done. We had to work overtime to flip the Senate.

The Georgia AFL-CIO mobilized at lightning speed and led a broad coalition on the ground. Lit drops. Postcard writing. Phone banking. Text banking. You knocked on more than a million doors. Your work made an impact on Georgia’s voters and made the difference in the election.

We defied the odds, elected two champions of working people in Senators Ossoff and Warnock, and tipped the balance in the United States Senate!

And because of our hard work, we now have everything lined up.

A pro-worker congress and White House.

We have the highest approval rating among the public in over half a century.

Workers are standing up and taking risks, in the workplace and in our communities.

And Georgia is showing every working person in this country what’s possible when we stand together in solidarity.

Through heat and torrential downpours BCTGM union members in Norcross 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.

And look at the ripple effect—working people are taking collective action across the country:

Kellogg workers striking for better pay and benefits and health insurance.

60,000 film and television production workers bargaining for adequate sleep, meal breaks and living wages. It’s as if they’re fighting for the weekend all over again.

And the members of our newest affiliate—the National Women’s Soccer League Players Association—are speaking out against harassment and abuse on the job, and mobilizing for a fair contract.

This is how we win progress. We build pressure and momentum, and grow our power as one united labor movement.

We need to keep our foot on the gas pedal. We are on the brink of historic investments with President Biden’s jobs bills.

We’re talking trillions of dollars of investment in working people and our families.

In infrastructure. Roads. Bridges. Waterways. Public transportation. Rural broadband.

Job training and public education.

Paid family and medical leave, childcare investments and universal pre-k—because care is also critical infrastructure.

We need it for those who were sidelined by caregiving responsibilities during the pandemic.

And we have to make sure care jobs are good jobs with family-supporting wages and benefits, because people caring for our children and older people should be able to do the work they love and support themselves at the same time.

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

So we are going to keep pushing to update labor laws for this century. We’re going to pass the PRO Act, and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act—because most public employees in Georgia right now are denied their right to collectively bargain for a better life.

And right along with labor rights—we’re going to protect and expand our voting rights.

Because both are fundamental to our democracy.

Corporations attack workers’ rights to deny our voice in the workplace. Extremist lawmakers attack our voting rights to deny our voice at the ballot box.

It’s not a coincidence. Where there are attacks on unions, there are attacks on the right to vote. And those attacks are targeted especially to hurt and disenfranchise people of color. We know why our enemies are trying to silence us, because unions and voting rights give us power.

Georgia, you know this all too well.

S.B. 202 was a targeted assault on the right to vote of Georgia’s working people of color.

But we won’t let racist efforts deny us our rights—our freedom—or our power.

We are building a bold, dynamic and inclusive labor movement to meet his moment. A movement that dreams big and takes risks and isn’t afraid to fail.

A movement that takes a new approach to the enduring values of fairness, dignity and shared prosperity—where racial justice and gender equity guides everything we do.

A movement that leverages our power to bring women and people of color from the margins to the center—at work, in our unions and in our economy.

Georgia, in 2020 you showed the nation what we can do when we’re united.

Now let’s show the nation why the labor movement is the single most powerful force for progress in this country.

Keep going. Keep up the great work. Our time is now.

Thank you Georgia labor and have a great convention!