Shuler: Metro Washington Is a Model for Worker Engagement

Greenbelt, Md.

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler delivered the following remarks as prepared to the Metropolitan Washington Council:

Thank you, George (Farenthold).

Thank you to our labor allies for being here: Executive (of Prince George's County) Angela Alsobrooks, Congressman (Anthony) Brown, Father (Brian) Jordan, Mayor (Muriel) Bowser, and White House Director of Labor Engagement, Erika Dinkel-Smith.

That was such a beautiful reflection about three incredible labor leaders.

We are moving fast—pushing forward—but it’s important to slow down and acknowledge: We’ve been through so much together—as a movement—as a country.

We’ve lost friends and family, members of our labor community—including Liz, Andrew, and my partner for 12 years, Rich Trumka.

When I think of Rich I think of his roots in the Mineworkers and Pennsylvania.

He always talked about it—how the bosses at the mines thought they could deny workers their rights.

Rich led the Pittston strike—he used the union to put power behind workers’ voices—and he wanted every working person, on every job, to have that power of a union too.

And right now working people are hungry for change—they’re speaking up—taking risks—going on strike.

The labor movement is leading a national reckoning.

I’ve been visiting those picket lines—and everywhere I go the thing that stands out the most is how working people are truly in it together. They are bonded by the struggle and that solidarity is powerful. It makes me emotional!

Through thick and thin—in rain and hail and high winds—they’re out there holding down the line.

As we continue to work through our grief and weather the challenges of this ongoing pandemic, we are rising to meet this moment.

This council plays a special role, through local activism and organizing—and a presence on the national stage.

You are a model for engagement, always there—at every rally, each table.

You are woven into the fabric of the nation's capital community. And you’ve made incredible progress:

Hazard pay and workplace protections for grocery workers.

In Anne Arundel, prevailing wages for construction workers.

Collective bargaining agreements at the Kennedy Center and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

And too many organizing breakthroughs to name. It takes teamwork and leadership.

And speaking of leadership—Dyana (Forester), where are you? Will you wave, please?

Everyone: This is what a strong labor leader looks like.

Dyana and Robert (Hollingsworth) and the entire team: Thank you for your hard work moving the council forward.

Finally, congratulations to tonight’s awardees. You are examples for thinking big and innovating.

That’s our future. We’re building a bold, inclusive and dynamic movement.

So keep going. Those we love and lost will be with us every step of the way.

Thank you.