Speech | Right to Work

Trumka Draws Inspiration from Western Region Leaders

Buena Park, California

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka delivered the following opening remarks at the Western District Strategy Session: 

Thank you, Brother Art (Pulaski). Thank you to the UFCW for hosting us. And thank you all for being here.

As I begin, I want to reinforce what Katie said about our Code of Conduct. I am extremely proud that last week, under the leadership of Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, we held a convening on sexual harassment to strategize about the labor movement’s role in helping stop this epidemic. That responsibility starts with our own house. We simply will not tolerate any form of harassment, discrimination or bullying. If you experience or see something, report it to one of the designees.

Today in this room we have the best trade unionists in the Western region. You are the labor movement’s eyes and ears. Every role and every job is represented here today. It is not an exaggeration to say the future of our movement and our country is in your hands.

To be our best, we need to be sound in the trenches. That means executing the basics-blocking and tackling. Member engagement and communication. Organizing. Bargaining. Servicing. Leadership training. Political independence. Community outreach.

Our goal for this meeting is to unite around a common purpose and strategy to win back power for workers. Over the next several hours, we’ll look at ways to neutralize Janus and right to work by organizing internally. We’ll dive into our Path to Power program which is electing union members to office from coast to coast. We’ll discuss the ways we are using data and technology to break new ground in politics AND organizing. And we’ll lay out our Labor 2018 program, with a focus on talking to our members about issues.

This past June, I joined with many of you in Los Angeles for a summit on right to work. 750 labor leaders, activists and staff came together to prepare, plan and prioritize in the face of historic attacks on our rights. I left that meeting inspired. And I can tell you that your leadership helped shape the agenda we adopted at our convention in St. Louis.

I want to repeat something I said in June.

We will aim to defeat every attack on either the institutions of our labor movement or the core values we hold dear—freedom, equality, justice, fairness and the rights to assemble and speak freely.

We will use every fight to organize internally by educating our membership about the threats we face and more importantly, our power to overcome them.

You see, the corporate right-wing is betting that Janus and other attacks will knock us out.

I am betting that when more working people fully understand the power of collective bargaining and collective action, our movement will grow bigger and stronger.

That’s exactly what’s happening here in the Western region.

In California, nearly 300 journalists at the Los Angeles Times formed the first newsroom union in the paper's 136-year history.

In Alaska, labor and community activists convinced Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski to VOTE NO on legislation aimed at destroying our health care.

In Washington, OPEIU member and WSLC Political Director Teresa Mosqueda was elected to the Seattle City Council.

In Utah, state fed president Dale Cox, a member of the Operating Engineers, was elected to the Murray City Council.

And in Oregon, labor helped pass SB 1040, a bill to prevent local governments from adopting right to work, the first of its kind in the nation.

We have the power.

We know our opponents are tough. They’re well-heeled and ruthless. But their deep pockets can’t overcome our deep passion for a fairer and more just nation. We didn’t start this fight. But brothers and sisters, we are going to finish it.

When I look around this room, I have hope. Hope for a brighter future. Hope for a new day. Hope for an America where every worker can get ahead.

We are the only ones who can deliver the massive economic and social change working people are hungry for.

That’s what we’re going to do.

That’s what this meeting is all about.

So let’s get to work.

Explore the Issue