Brothers and sisters, I’m Rich Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO.
It is great to be here today.
As I begin, I want to recognize the outstanding leadership of Senator Bernie Sanders. Bernie is a friend, an ally and a champion. Thank you, Bernie, for everything you do for working people.
I want to acknowledge the president of the AFGE National VA Council, Miss Alma Lee, for being a tireless fighter for more than 250,000 VA workers. Keep fighting Alma!
And I want to thank all of the elected officials, labor leaders and veterans’ advocates who have joined us.
Finally, there is my brother AFGE National President J. David Cox. He’s one of a kind. And his passion is infectious. At our convention in St. Louis this past fall, inspired by the leadership of J. David, delegates unanimously passed a resolution rejecting VA privatization.
So I am here today with a mandate from our 12.5 million members. We support America’s veterans and we support the hard-working employees of the VA.
Let me be absolutely clear: We need a fully funded, fully staffed VA. The real story behind wait list manipulation at VA hospitals is short staffing.
For years, cynical politicians have failed to provide the VA with the resources necessary to care for our brave service members.
We have a crisis of care for veterans in this country. We need solutions, not scapegoats.
Here is the part that makes me really mad.
The corporate right-wing has deliberately created this crisis so their rich friends can profit off a scheme to privatize the VA and destroy all federally-funded health care. They want our veterans to use the skimpy vouchers that would put many on the path to medical bankruptcy.
These are the same people who are pitting veteran against veteran by trying to cut benefits in order to pay for health care. This is disgusting. It’s un-American. And we are going to put a stop to it.
We will oppose every politician and every corporation that seeks to profit off the blood, sweat and sacrifice of our veterans.
We will reject every effort to unjustly punish the hard-working men and women of the VA.
Federal employees serve our nation proudly. You’ve endured pay freezes, furloughs and baseless political attacks. President Trump’s threat to federal employees at the State of the Union was particularly shameful.
You deserve better. Our veterans deserve better. And the labor movement demands better.
Patriotism requires more than waving a flag. It calls on us to treat public workers with dignity and respect. It demands that we lift up the VA and stop playing politics with our veterans.
Listen, we’re less than a block from the VA, and within sight of the White House. I want each of you to look around. I want you to see what I see. I see people power right where it matters.
We won’t sit back and shut up. We won’t settle for less. We hold the power!
All over this country, working people are speaking up. It’s happening right now! We hold the power!
No more attacks on the VA. No more scapegoating America’s public servants.
Let’s fight for what’s right! Together! Arm in arm. In solidarity. For our veterans. For our nation. For each other. We hold the power!
Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the work you do!