Speech | Civil Rights

Shuler at March on Washington: We Must Do Better

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler delivered the following remarks at the March on Washington:

Hello, my name is Liz Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO...America’s unions! 12.5 million working people in 55 unions from all across the economy, saying BLACK LIVES MATTER. 

Thank you Reverend Al Sharpton, NAN and Martin Luther King III for bringing us together.

As we stand on the shoulders of Dr. King, Congressman John Lewis, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin and all the brave souls who marched together 57 years ago, we know, as a nation, we must do better.

Black Americans know the bank of justice IS bankrupt.

Justice was denied to Jacob Blake and George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks because they were Black. 

Justice was out of reach for Riah Milton and Dominique Fells, two black trans women who were killed earlier this summer. 

Union members have been out in the streets protesting these injustices. Professional athletes, many of them proud union members, have stood up in ways they never have before. The Milwaukee Bucks players said enough is enough, and the NBA playoffs are now on hold. WNBA players have spoken out...Major League Baseball...soccer...and more.

Whether it’s in professional sports...or in our communities...we in the labor movement are feeling excruciating pain, anger and grief. We will do our part to end racism in our economy, our politics, our workplaces AND our union halls. 

And on top of the widespread racism throughout our country’s institutions, COVID-19 is exposing the cracks that were already poisoning our system. A system that denies housing and health care and opportunity to far too many people of color. That’s why Black and brown people are more likely to lose their jobs or get sick and die in this pandemic. 

We have to do better. Now...NOW is the time to do the work and pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that are sitting in the Senate.

As a white person, I know that I will never experience the same pain and trauma that Black people have been feeling over and over again.

All I can say is I understand what I can’t possibly understand. But I choose to stand. And to kneel. And raise a fist. And shed a tear. And say a prayer. And fight like hell to make real change. 

As one united labor movement, we stand with our Black members, friends and neighbors.

Our mission is to empower families and communities to reach their dreams. That’s why we’re in this movement. 

It’s how we inch closer to achieving Dr. King’s Dream from 57 years ago.

It’s how we wake up America.

And it’s how we TOGETHER continue the march of those who marched before us.

Explore the Issue