AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler delivered the following remarks by video to the Minnesota AFL-CIO Convention:
Hello Minnesota—I am honored to be with you—even by video.
Thank you for your leadership, Bill [McCarthy] and Brad [Lehto].
The theme of today’s convention is Solidarity. That’s so important. Because solidarity is our power as a movement. Solidarity is how we won the weekend—a labor innovation that makes life better for everyone. And solidarity is how we are going to build a bold, modern, inclusive labor movement.
This is the tipping point. Extremist lawmakers are attacking voting rights. Corporations are denying workers’ rights to join a union. Inequality is at a record-high. CEOs are making 299 times what the average worker does.
There is one organization that can mobilize in every state, catalyze change and balance the scales.
It’s us. Our labor family of 56 unions, 12.5 million working people in jobs all across the economy.
The progress you’re making in Minnesota is part of the progress we are making, together, as one united movement. And our innovation and progress makes life better for every working person in this country.
So we need to put the age-old tactic of division behind us. A century ago, we let racism divide us. That's how right to work laws were created. Racism hurts all of us. Not just workers of color.
And immigrants pushed into the shadow economy; women paid less for equal work; people of color forced by systemic racism into unreliable, low-wage jobs. These are economic conditions that hurt all working people.
The way we reverse these inequities is through the solidarity of the labor movement.
We are women, people of color, immigrants, the differently abled, veterans, the LGBTQ.
We are the only organization that represents and speaks to people across all party lines and lived experiences.
That’s why the Minnesota AFL-CIO is recommitting to racial equity and putting racial and economic justice at the core of your 2021 legislative priorities.
Racial justice means George Floyd and Daunte Wright would still be alive.
We need reforms to our systems of justice and politics, workplaces and economies.
We took an important step with our national blueprint on policing. We are empowering officers to break the blue wall of silence, call out bad behavior of fellow officers and hold them accountable.
But that’s one small step in the fight to end systemic racism—we have a lot more to do.
We’re going to continue to confront racial oppression, extremism, bigotry and disinformation that threatens democracy.
We are going to bring women and people of color and immigrants from the margins to the center at work, in our unions and in our economy.
And we will use our collective voices, actions and bargaining power for racial justice, gender equity, a path to citizenship, voting rights and to make sure every working person in this country has access to the life-changing power of a good, union job.
This is our chance. The public is with us. An overwhelming majority—68 percent of Americans and 77 percent of young people—support labor unions.
Workers are standing up and taking risks, in the workplace and in our communities.
The Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation is organizing the beverage sector. With UNITE HERE Local 17 organizing campaigns at breweries and distilleries.
And we have the most pro-union administration in history.
We can empower millions of people who want to join a union by passing the Richard Trumka PRO Act and a national public sector PRO Act.
Look at the good we’ve already done: Minnesota labor reached each corner of the state by driving actions for the PRO Act. While Teamsters were locked out, you coordinated solidarity pickets, boycotts, held food relief events for striking families, and pushed city and state governments to help get a fair deal. The Hospitality and Event Workers Relief Fund was a lifeline for displaced workers. The Saint Paul Regional Labor Federation conducted an absolutely massive food delivery operation.
I am so hopeful for the future. Keep going. Keep up the great work. Our time is now.
Together, as one united labor movement, we are the single most powerful force for progress in the United States.
In solidarity! Thank you Minnesota labor!