AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler delivered the following remarks to the Nevada AFL-CIO Convention:
Hello, Nevada. I am honored to be with you—even though it’s by video—and how exciting to be following Governor [Steve] Sisolak’s powerful message to open the convention. We are in awe of his leadership and your partnership, passing the largest expansion of collective bargaining rights for state workers anywhere in the U.S. in 16 years. What an accomplishment.
I wanted to thank you all for keeping our national AFL-CIO in your thoughts and for sending us strength. We are working through a heartbreaking loss in unprecedented times full of so many challenges.
As you know our president Rich Trumka passed away unexpectedly on August 5th. I take comfort in the fact his final days were spent with the people he loved the most—fishing and enjoying the outdoors, in his beloved home state of Pennsylvania. Rich was looking forward to this convention, to thanking and acknowledging all of you, our elected labor allies and celebrating Nevada labor.
He wanted to wish Rusty [McAllister] a wonderful retirement and I want to wish you all the best in your next chapter as well, Rusty. You’ve done what every leader strives for, which is to leave the organization in a better place than when you found it. We are grateful.
As we look forward, the best way we can honor Rich’s life is by continuing his life’s work. You know that Rich was absolutely laser-focused on the PRO Act. That’s why it’s so fitting that our friends in Congress are going to rename the PRO Act in Rich’s honor. So we are going to carry his legacy with us. We are going to press forward and with the leadership of Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto and Senator Jacky Rosen, we are going to pass the Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize Act. We’re going to keep moving with our labor champions in the House—Congressman Steven Horsford, Congresswoman Dina Titus and Congresswoman Susie Lee.
And Rich’s memory will be there with every step forward.
Please, join me now in a moment of silence for Rich and all he’s done for our movement.
[Ten second pause.]
Through the worst public health crisis in a century, through the worst economy since the Great Depression and the hottest summer on record, Nevada labor keeps stepping up.
Because of you, with our pro-labor elected officials in the Nevada Assembly, working families have won game-changing, statewide legislation. We won right to return for hospitality workers. We won tools to empower care workers. We won expanded protections for construction workers by ending contractor misclassification. That bill was introduced by Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, a member of UNITE HERE’s Culinary Workers Union Local 226, which has been fighting for fair wages, job security and good health benefits for working men and women in Nevada for 83 years. That’s what solidarity and momentum looks like on the state level.
And because you organized and mobilized brilliantly to elect the most pro-worker administration—a majority in the U.S. House and Senate—we’re seeing urgency on the federal level. The bipartisan infrastructure deal and the budget resolution that passed the Senate are investments in us: American-made with union labor. Roads, bridges and waterways. Public transportation, rural broadband, job training. Clean energy research and climate resilience. The first ever federal paid family and medical leave benefit because just like roads and bridges, care is critical infrastructure people need to be able to go to work. There's a long overdue path to citizenship. Real penalties to hold employers who violate workers' rights accountable and a huge funding increase for labor law enforcement.
In every conversation I have I like to point out that those infrastructure jobs are absolutely jobs for women. As Vice President Harris put it, “Hard hats are unisex.” And that is so important because COVID-19 has touched every community but women lost almost a million more jobs than men, with Black and Latina women suffering the greatest job losses. We want investments in apprenticeship programs that are going to create not just a JOB, but a family- supporting CAREER. And the labor movement is the gold standard. We are the bridge to high-growth, high-demand jobs. Our apprenticeship readiness and apprenticeship programs put people on the path to the middle class. And we are laser-focused on recruiting women and people of color.
We’re going to count on the new leadership of the Nevada AFL-CIO to continue to create an inclusive environment, build equitable representation, foster new labor leaders at work and within our federated bodies. This is a moment to think and act from a spirit of innovation and grow. We have a once-in-a-generation chance to get it right. Everyone's 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; worker perspective and voice in every step of the innovation process as new technology is evolving and shaping our work; and we need the Richard L. Trumka PRO Act and a national public sector PRO Act right alongside it to make sure jobs now and jobs on the horizon in new industries will be good, union jobs.
We need the PRO Act to remove barriers like the fear of getting fired when we stand together with our co-workers and try to organize a union. We need the PRO Act to make sure the clean energy future and American innovation are union-made. And to lift up worker voice and perspective so that we benefit from our taxpayer investments. Because this isn’t just about unions. It’s about fairness, it’s about the fundamental economic power of working people in the United States.
I know you. I know our federation. And I am so hopeful for the future. The labor movement is the single most powerful force for progress in this country. We’re going to lead societal transformations, leverage our power to bring women and people of color from the margins to the center—at work, in our unions and in our economy. And we are going to be that center of gravity for incubating new ideas that will unleash unprecedented union growth.
Thank you and have a great convention!