Speech | Better Pay and Benefits

Trumka to Northeast District Strategy Session: "We are the only organized voice for working people in America."

Silver Spring, Maryland

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka delivered the following closing remarks at the Northeast District Strategy Session: 

Thank you, brothers and sisters.

This has been a very productive meeting. We covered a lot of ground.

We talked about the political landscape, the need to increase our density and the ways we can use the 2018 election to engage with our members.

We talked about the Workers’ Bill of Rights and our Path to Power program which is helping elect more union members to office.

We talked about the threats of Janus and right to work and our power to overcome them.

And we also made some important asks like assigning local union coordinators, identifying elected officials who are union members and incorporating Common Sense Economics into  your outreach

I am confident that we will leave here today with a clear vision and mission for growing our movement and winning worker power.

This has never been more important.

Listen, there is no denying that 2017 was a difficult year for working people.

Corporations did everything in their power to hold down wages. Inequality grew. And politicians at the federal and state level launched a new wave of attacks on our dignity and rights.

Yet even in the face of these challenges, we stood strong. The labor movement demonstrated our power with historic strikes, organizing victories and powerful new contracts that saved jobs, raised pay and expanded retirement security. We passionately made our case for a new set of economic rules designed to achieve broadly shared prosperity. America has taken notice. Our approval rating is more than 60 percent, the highest in almost two decades.

Our test of 2018…and beyond…will be to build on these successes. Each election, each organizing drive, each legislative battle…will showcase our growing clout. But I believe you’ll see the impact of our momentum on an even broader level.

When more union members fill the halls of power…when wages go up and inequality shrinks…when we have more pro-labor Republicans and fewer corporate-beholden Democrats…when a growing number of young people see the value of democracy and that we can and will change the rules of this economy…when we stop defining victory as not losing...and most of all...when more workers realize their own value and the power of solidarity…that’s when you’ll know unions are on the rise.

That moment is close. I feel it in every union hall I visit and every picket line I stand on. I feel it in every politician who looks at us differently since we stopped the TPP. I feel it when I talk to brave immigrants ready to come out of the shadows and working women who are saying enough is enough. And I feel it here today.

Brothers and sisters, we have to engage with our members. Let’s make it clear to every working person in the Northeast that the change they are looking for can be found by standing together in unions. We are the only organized voice for working people in America. Not Republicans. Not Democrats. The labor movement.

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, they will want to join and stay and pay. I also want to remind you of this simple fact: right to work does not stop anyone from signing a union card. And it does not cause a single worker to lose their collective bargaining rights.

The special interests that want to destroy unions have been coming after our rights for 50 years. Well, guess what? We’re still here! Our opponents may have the money. But we have the truth. And the truth is that union dues provide an incredible return on investment. The truth is that belonging to a union is like being part of a family that will always have your back. The truth is that corporations have become way too strong in America, and the only way to create balance and fairness in the workplace is by joining a union. This is a message we must continue to spread inside and outside our ranks.

The challenge ahead of us is massive. 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.

Let’s show working people we can win! Let’s deliver the change America is hungry for. It’ll take risk. It’ll take solidarity, but we can make it happen by standing together, marching together, fighting together… shoulder to shoulder… arm in arm… as long as it takes… let’s do it! To take America back! For workers! For the country we love! Thank you very much!

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