Shuler: Maine Is Organizing and Winning

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

Hello Maine, Labor!

I’m honored to be with you—even by video.

Thank you Cynthia, Doug, Patrick, all the officers—and of course Matt and the entire team for your hard work and dedication.

Cynthia, my IBEW sister—you’re blazing a trail as the first woman to lead the Maine federation.

And I know from experience how the IBEW prepares women to step into leadership roles, thank you for doing such an incredible job.

And to all of you, thank you for your resilience.

Our entire movement sees and feels the work Maine labor does.

This pandemic has been devastating.

It’s pushed us to a breaking point.

I don't know about you, but it makes me angry to see corporations taking advantage of the sacrifices we’ve made.

They’re relentlessly pursuing profits, expecting us to accept less, risk our lives—and we’re not going to take it.

We’re not going to put up with unfair and unsafe working conditions.

We’re done with downward pressure on wages and benefits.

We’re not going to sell out the next generation.

We were, are, and will always be essential. And we deserve to be treated like it.

We deserve a fair share of the profits we create.

And every working person in this country deserves the life-changing power of a good, union job.

This is our moment.

We have the highest approval rating among the public in over 50 years.

Workers are standing up and taking risks. People are reclaiming their power through their unions.

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

We saw it last summer when over 4,000 Machinists went on strike against Bath Iron Works. After 10 weeks on the picket line, they won a fair contract!

The Maine AFL-CIO was there every step of the way. You gave the support and you helped build the groundswell that is inspiring workers across the country.

I’m not sure we’ve ever been able to claim this before—but we’re trending on Twitter! Check out the hashtag: Striketober.

100,000 union members are either on strike or have authorized a strike. Right now—this is across industries and all over the country.

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

And Maine is a perfect example. Last year Maine grew its union membership by 13,000 members! A three percent increase. That’s incredible! In an era where union membership keeps going down, we want to do what you’re doing so we can grow 3 percent across the entire country!

You are reaching out to workers—some who have never had contact with a union before. You’re connecting with them. Educating. Earning their trust. And organizing.

Drivers in Waterville. Transit workers in Southern Maine. Nurses in Portland.

These organizing wins lead to more organizing wins—and legislative wins too.

You worked to beat back a right to work bill.

You pushed to reform the state’s unemployment system so working people have access to benefits and training.

That didn’t just happen—you put the work in to win elections. And now we have a pro-worker congress and White House.

We have a union member as the Secretary of Labor.

And a union member as the President of the Maine Senate.

How incredible was it that those two got together recently to discuss the challenges loggers and wood haulers face in Northern Maine?

That’s the power of electing union members to public office.

We need to keep our foot on the accelerator!

Because we have a lot of enemies out there who want to stifle us. It’s still easier for a corporation to stop a union than it is for a worker to form one.

Museum workers in Portland and our courageous nurses at Maine Medical know what I mean. You were bullied and harassed and forced to participate in captive audience meetings held by unvaccinated, union-busting consultants.

To give workers more power and take away those barriers people face when they try to join a union, we need the PRO Act and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act.

We also need investments in working people and our communities.

That’s why we fully support both the reconciliation and the bipartisan infrastructure bills.

These are the biggest investments in almost 100 years—in infrastructure—manufacturing—supply chains.

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

Job training and public education.

AND paid family and medical leave, child care investments and universal pre-k—because care is also critical infrastructure. We are fighting to keep them in the bill, because we need those investments. People have been sidelined by caregiving responsibilities during the pandemic and can’t get back to work without them.

And we need to make sure care jobs are GOOD jobs with family sustaining wages and benefits.

You may have heard that the reconciliation bill also includes a key piece of the PRO Act. First-of-their-kind penalties for employers who violate our right to organize. So that if they break the law, there will be REAL consequences.

This is the kind of bold plan that puts workers at the center of policy and will help us recover from the pandemic and decades of neglect and under-investment.

This is our chance to create good, sustainable union jobs, now and for the next generation—revive American industries—and build back better in towns and local economies all over Maine. Game-changing opportunities are on the table.

This is the inflection point. The moment we look back on 10, 20, 30 years from now, where we decided to grow our labor movement into the most dynamic, bold and inclusive labor movement we’ve ever seen.

So are you ready to organize like never before?

Workers out there are looking for hope and a better life.

Let’s show them they can find it with the labor movement in Maine.

So keep it going. Keep up the great work. Thank you and I can’t wait to see where we go from here.

Have a great convention!