AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler delivered the following remarks to the Virginia AFL-CIO Labor Day Breakfast:
Hello everyone, happy Labor Day! I’m zooming in from the road, talking to workers and heading to a canvass kickoff in a few minutes
Thank you for that wonderful introduction, Doris [Crouse-Mays]! My sister—who is a she-ro to me and so many. I’m grateful for your dedication and resilience, and you and Lorne [Seay] are doing a tremendous job leading the Virginia federation.
Thank you for being here Senator Tim Kaine. As a co-sponsor and with your help, we are going to pass the Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize Act.
Governor [Ralph] Northam and Lieutenant Governor [Justin] Fairfax, we appreciate your partnership and leadership and signing all that progressive legislation and Lieutenant Governor Fairfax for breaking those tie votes.
A big shout out to Chairman Bobby Scott who is a tireless champion for our Workers First Agenda. I constantly see and hear him lifting up working people in the U.S. House.
Thank you Gayleen [Kanoyton] and the Hampton Democratic Committee for organizing the 12th year of this wonderful event. Jim [Avery], thank you. And Thomas Calhoun and the Eastern Virginia Labor Federation for your partnership. Here’s to 12 more!
Your theme is exactly right: Voting is our superpower. We made that loud and clear in 2020. Union members and our partners and allies organized, we mobilized. We elected the most pro-worker president and vice president in history, a pro-worker majority in the U.S. House, and because we knocked on more than one million doors in Georgia, we won a pro-worker majority in the U.S. Senate! And we need to use that superpower again—right now—to elect our slate of pro-worker champions in Virginia. Terry McAuliffe as Virginia’s next governor. Hala Ayala as lieutenant governor. Mark Herring as attorney general. And two of our union family—Elizabeth Guzman (AFSCME) and Jeion Ward (AFT) for House of Delegates.
All 100 Virginia House of Delegates seats are up for election this year. We don’t just want to protect the gains we’ve made—we want to go even further. This is a moment to think and act from a spirit of innovation and growth, and build back better. Everyone included. No community left behind.
On a national level, we need the 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 are one vote away in the Senate. We are counting on Senator Warner to join Senator Kaine and come through for us. Because 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. We need the PRO Act because the way we can absolutely build back better—keyword: better—is with good, sustainable union jobs.
Just this morning, I was out at sunrise visiting union members working at Dulles Airport. Did you know workers from more than 44 local unions work at Dulles? Baggage handlers, pilots, cabin cleaners, ramp workers, check-point screeners, fuelers, flight attendants, food court workers, security officers and so many more. All dedicated to the safety of millions of travelers who arrive and depart through one of America’s busiest airports. I heard a lot about the issues on their minds—fair wages, benefits, and workplace safety protections—how that union difference is changing and saving lives.
That’s what we want for everyone: the uplifting power of a good, sustainable union job. That’s the goal we’re working toward as we build a bold, modern inclusive labor movement—bringing women and people of color from the margins to the center. Together we are the most powerful force for progress in this country. And unions are the counterforce to skyrocketing inequality. We balance the economy. And every working person in every type of job should have a place in our movement.
The 2021 election is so important for the labor movement in Virginia and working people everywhere. Over the past two years, thanks to a pro-worker majority in the statehouse, Virginia’s lawmakers have been changemakers. Delegate Ward mentioned the Oxfam America report. They rank states on which is the best to work in and the results for 2020 just came in. Virginia jumped up dramatically 29 spots higher in the last year because of you—communities and workers organizing for policy changes that are centered on working people.
In the past two sessions you’ve made so many pro-worker policy gains: Protections for domestic workers. You raised the minimum wage. You passed legislation to fight misclassification. Historic expansion of voting rights. That’s what we’re celebrating this Labor Day: generations of working peoples’ contributions to American prosperity to building the middle class, and this year, to our recovery.
This election is about all of that and it’s a test for the 2022 midterms. And as you all know, one vote is all it takes. Everyone remembers 2018, when the outcome of the entire Virginia House of Delegates was decided by one vote—picked out of a hat! We can’t leave anything to chance.
When working people vote, we all win. We win policies and investments and opportunities that create good, sustainable union jobs. Thank you so much and Happy Labor Day.