Shuler to Metal Trades: We Need Worker Voice in Innovation Process

Washington, D.C.

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler delivered the following remarks as prepared to the Metal Trades Department 71st Convention:

Thank you so much, Jimmy, for your leadership and thank you to the Metal Trades Executive Council. It’s great to be with you, even if it’s in a hybrid meeting. It’s been a real study in how we change with the dynamics around us.

The MTD knows a little bit about evolving and changing—when you look over the 100 year history, you’ve confronted so many challenges and some incredible breakthroughs.

I was looking at the agenda, you have quite a docket of fantastic speakers. What an honor to have Vice Admiral Galinis speaking at this 71st convention.

It’s a testament to how the metal trades have always been vital to national defense.

And with actor Steve Schrippa—and Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta—you can see the strength of our solidarity.

That’s part of the reason this is such a remarkable moment.

We’ve been weathering decades of offshoring and outsourcing.

Under-investments starving our communities.

Corporate greed has chipped away at workers rights.

Technology is evolving and changing our work and the economy.

And the only reason we’re getting through the worst ever public health crisis is because working people have stepped up. Your members have stepped up.

So we are at a tipping point.

This is our moment.

This is our chance to put power on the side of working people by building a bold, dynamic and inclusive labor movement.

To make progress for racial justice, gender equity, for working families and our communities through the economic power of good, union jobs.

That’s why people are looking to us, the labor movement, for solutions and to find hope.

68 percent of people support unions—including 77 percent of young people.

And all across the country, people are speaking up and taking risks to reclaim their power through unions.

That includes thousands of working people on strike.

They’re fighting for the future of the American middle class, for fair contracts with better wages, benefits, and working conditions—and to keep jobs in the United States.

Coal miners in Alabama.

Nurses in Massachusetts.

Steelworkers and Machinists in West Virginia.

Distillery workers in Kentucky.

Ironworkers in Pennsylvania.

And 60,000 IATSE members, the working people who make our favorite television and movies, have been bargaining, took a strike authorization vote last week, and just announced today that they are prepared to go on strike on Monday.

At the same time, we have a pro-union administration actually encouraging organizing.

And thanks to the pro-union leadership of Majority Leader Schumer, we’re on the brink of passing historic jobs bills.

These are game-changing investments that are going to create millions of jobs—including more than half a million manufacturing jobs.

They’re going to update our infrastructure. We need infrastructure passed now—our roads and bridges, water systems, electricity grid, public transportation and education have been waiting too long.

In every conversation I have, I point out that infrastructure jobs are absolutely jobs for women.

And our training investments provide pathways into high quality jobs across sectors including manufacturing.

Through our apprenticeship programs, the labor movement is the bridge to those high-growth, high-demand jobs.

And we are laser focused on recruiting women, people of color, veterans, and the formerly incarcerated.

This is our opportunity to grow.

Everyone included. No community left behind. American-made industries—American supply-chains.

High labor standards on every tax dollar invested in construction with PLAs and Davis Bacon protections.

And as new technology is evolving and shaping our work—worker perspective and voice in every step of the innovation process—from discovery and development to application.

About 100 years ago, the Taylor System was an idea of scientific management that took all the thinking and expertise away from workers.

But the Metal Trades Department pushed back and the Taylor system was abandoned in gun factories and shipyards.

Similarly, today, we don’t want technology built without worker voices, we don’t want it to be used to replace or exploit us.

We want to co-create with technology and we want the power to bargain about how it’s used in our workplaces.

And we want the benefits of our investments in science and technology to be widely shared.

So we are going to keep pushing to update labor laws for this century.

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

That means removing barriers like the fear of getting fired when we stand together in unions.

That means passing the PRO Act and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act right alongside it.

And we are going to protect and expand our voting rights.

We are going to put an end to wage theft, the shadow economy, and the practice of misclassifying us as contractors to deny us our rights.

The path to citizenship is long overdue.

A worker-centered democracy depends on our rights at the ballot box and in our workplaces for everyone who lives and works here.

As one united labor movement, we are such a powerful force for good.

We fight for every single working person in this country.

We are THE engine that will move our country to a secure and equitable future.

So thank you Metal Trades Department!

Congratulations on your 71st Convention!

Keep it going. Keep up the great work.

I’m so excited to see where we go from here.