Speech | Better Pay and Benefits

Trumka Highlights Worker Uprising at Christian Science Monitor Breakfast

Washington, D.C.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka addresses the Christian Science Monitor Breakfast.
Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka delivered the following remarks at the Christian Science Monitor Breakfast: 

Good morning. Thank you to the Christian Science Monitor for hosting this breakfast once again, and thanks to each of you for joining us here today. What a year it has already been.

Back in January, I was asked what victory looks like for the labor movement. And I said you’ll know unions are on the rise when more workers start realizing our own value.

Well, it’s happening. We’re living through the kind of defining moment that can leave its mark for a generation. A moment that will determine what kind of economy we work in and what kind of society we live in.

But this uprising isn’t in Washington, on Wall Street or in corporate boardrooms. In fact, it’s a direct response to the failure of these institutions.

If you want to know what’s really happening in America, look in the streets...look in America’s workplaces and union halls and community centers. Everywhere, there is a surge in collective action.

Look, I’ve been in the labor movement for 50 years. This is unlike anything I’ve seen in a long, long time. Workers from all sectors and backgrounds and communities are joining together and organizing.

And this progress has been won in the face of a corporate political class that has never had more money, influence or sinister intentions.

262,000 new members joined unions in 2017, three quarters of them under the age of 35...even as the Supreme Court continues to chip away at our freedoms.

The popularity of unions is above 60 percent and rising...even as Congress pushes proposals to gut our financial, health care and retirement security.

And research from MIT shows the number of workers who would vote to join a union today has doubled...even as the Trump Administration uses its executive power to attack federal workers and make our workplaces substantially more dangerous.

Imagine what we could accomplish with leaders who actually fought for working people...or at least stayed out of our way...rather than trying to crush our unions and silence our collective voice.

The fact is...working people are taking matters into our own hands. We’re looking inward to position ourselves to shape the future of work and the labor movement. We’re organizing. We’re mobilizing. And we’re winning.

We know that a union contract is the single best way to secure higher pay, better benefits, safer jobs and more secure retirement. Just look at the recent Princeton University study finding that unions consistently provided workers with a 10 to 20 percent wage boost over an 80-year period.

So our job this election season is to secure that promise for even more working people...by filling the halls of power with genuine champions of collective bargaining.

We’ve proven what we can do on the campaign trail, from Virginia to Alabama to Pennsylvania. And we’re already mobilizing our members, one conversation at a time. We’re unleashing the largest and most strategic member to member political program in our history, sparking change by doing what organizers do best: talking to each other.

And if you want to see that power on full display, just look at what’s going on in Missouri right now.

The legislature and now ex-governor ignored the interests and voices of working people. They listened to the whispers of a few right-wing, corporate billionaires, and jammed through a wrongheaded “right to work” law that threatens to lower workers’ pay by more than $8,700.

So, working people took matters into our own hands. We were tasked with getting 100,000 signatures to put the law to a statewide vote.

You know what we did? We organized and turned in more than 300,000 signatures.

The election is Tuesday. And let me tell you something: we’re going to win.

We’re going to win because it’s what workers want and making our voices heard is what we do best.

We’re knocking on doors, making calls and visiting worksites. We’re mobilizing, street-by-street and person-by-person, showing our power and our passion for our issues...the things that affect us every day at our jobs and in our lives.

It’s proof positive that we’re not ceding an inch after the Janus case. And, it’s a preview of what’s to come in November and beyond.

You’re looking for the big story? There it is. That’s where real power lies. And that’s who’s writing the story of 2018 and beyond.

Thank you again. I’m looking forward to your questions.

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