Speech | Civil Rights

Shuler: We Will Never Give Up on Voting Rights

Selma, Ala.

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler delivered the following remarks as prepared at the Selma to Montgomery March Jubilee bridge dedication event:

I’m Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO. 

I bring solidarity on behalf of our 57 unions and 12.5 million members.

The labor movement is here. We always have been. We always will be. 

Madame Vice President, it is an honor to stand by your side again today. 

AFSCME President Lee Saunders, my brother, my friend. The legendary Bill Lucy.

All of the union members here today: this fight is our fight. 

And to the event organizers, especially Hank Sanders, thank you for keeping the spotlight on Selma. 

In January, when the Senate blocked voting rights a few days after Dr. King’s birthday, I remember feeling exasperated. 

Why is it so hard to pass something we should all agree on?

But standing here at the foot of this bridge, I am reminded that our civil and labor rights heroes have overcome greater obstacles than the filibuster.

John Lewis was beaten within an inch of his life. But he didn’t stop. And the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act became the law of the land. 

Striking sanitation workers, AFSCME members all, took on entrenched racism in the city of Memphis and the United States of America, and won. 

And Dr. King gave his life in the process. 

All these years later there are workers at an Amazon plant here in Alabama, most of them Black, demanding the same dignity and rights as their forefathers in Memphis.

All these years later we are still fighting for the fundamental right to vote…for our very democracy…in the face of a power structure built on keeping people of color down. 

But I think about Dr. King’s dream and his drive and I know we must finish the job. 

I think about John Lewis, bloodied and beaten, carrying on. Moving forward. Inspiring generations. It fills me with hope. 

I have hope that we will pass the bill that bears his name: the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. And the Freedom to Vote Act right alongside it. 

Let us pledge on this day…on this bridge…to never give up. 

The heroic labor leader Bayard Rustin said: We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers.

With the angels of Dr. King, Congressman Lewis and so many others guiding us, let’s make good trouble. 

Let’s march. And protest. And fight. And lobby. And take arrest if we have to. 

Let’s keep doing it. Every single day.

To win voting rights. And worker rights. And democracy for all. 

The labor movement is all in. 

Thank you! 

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