Trumka: Collective Bargaining Is an Exercise of Freedom

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka delivered the following remarks at the 2021 AFGE Legislative and Grassroots Mobilization Conference, which was held virtually:

Thank you, Brother Everett [Kelley]. I am grateful for your leadership and friendship.

And I am proud to stand alongside every AFGE member. You are proud public servants—and proud union members—who have fought back against some of the most despicable political attacks in our nation’s history.

For four long years, AFGE was the former president's punching bag. He attacked your collective bargaining rights. His administration attacked your members’ due process. They attacked your very right to exist.

But after each hit, you refused to be knocked down or knocked out. Because you understand that collective bargaining is an exercise of freedom. It's the law of the land.

At last year's conference, I made you this promise: we’ll be here long after we send Donald Trump back to his gold-plated mansion. Brothers and sisters, one month ago today, Donald Trump took a one-way flight to Florida. And we're still standing. We're still serving America.

AFGE members are strong, but you don't serve for fame or fortune. You serve because you believe our veterans deserve quality care from the VA. So our soldiers have the supplies they need. So seniors get the Social Security and Medicare they rely on.

You do that because you took a sacred oath. During the darkest of days, you carried out your duty with dignity and honor—because you are patriots.

And you know there is nothing more American than forming a union.

President Biden believes that, too. It's why he proudly calls himself a "union guy." In one month, this president revoked three executive orders designed to eliminate collective bargaining, due process, and workplace representation rights for federal employees. Removed anti-worker members of the FSIP. Fired the union-busting general counsel of the NLRB. And reinstated that the policy of the United States government is to encourage—encourage—collective bargaining.

These big wins happened because of you. But big challenges remain. This conference is meant to make your demands known to the people in power.

With the pandemic still crushing the country we love, we demand COVID-19 relief. Health care. Pensions. Paid leave. State and local funding.

It’s time to go big and bold. Compromise is not going to cut it.

AFGE members are doing more than ever to serve our country. So we demand more from the people who run this country, including the right to freely and fairly form a union.

Congress needs to make the PRO Act a priority, pass it and send it to President Biden.

Unions must belong to everyone, everywhere, in every sector. Because when you mess with one of us, you will get all of us.

Of course, skeptics will say it's impossible. But the past four years proved that labor can not only take a punch, but we will never stop demanding what’s rightfully ours: collective bargaining, a secure retirement, safe working conditions and fair wages.

That's what we believe. That’s what we do. That's who we are.

AFGE is devoted, powerful and tough as nails. You serve America in every way. And as one united labor movement, we are serving our neighbors and demanding better together.

This is a new day. The sun is rising. Our solidarity is growing. And the best is yet to come.

God bless you. God bless AFGE. God bless the American labor movement.