Trumka: "Pass the HEROES Act Now"

Good afternoon. Thank you for joining this call. I hope everyone is staying safe and staying healthy.

Let me also acknowledge the other labor leaders on this call:

  • UNITE HERE President D. Taylor;  
  • AFSCME President Lee Saunders;
  • Actors’ Equity President Kate Shindle; and
  • BCTGM International President Anthony Shelton.

For months, the AFL-CIO and our affiliate unions have rallied behind America’s Five Economic Essentials. 

  • Keep front-line workers safe and secure. 
  • Keep workers employed and protect earned pension checks.
  • Keep state and local governments, our public schools and the U.S. Postal Service solvent and working.
  • Keep America healthy—protect and expand health insurance for all workers.
  • Keep America competitive—hire people to build infrastructure.

These essentials found a home in the HEROES Act. And we are fighting every day to make this legislation the law of the land. 

A lot of people are focused on the final 89 days of this election season—and for good reason. Every day, 1,000 Americans are dying from COVID-19. And what does our president have to say? "It is what it is."

President Trump is a dangerous combination of incompetence and indifference. And the labor movement is going to defeat him in November. 

But there is another number we need to focus on: 83. It’s been 83 days since the House did their job and passed the HEROES Act. But for 83 days and counting, that bill has been sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk. And during those 83 days, 79,000 Americans have died.

Where is the sense of urgency?

McConnell told us to “pause” in May. He wanted to see if we really needed another coronavirus relief bill. After more than nearly 160,000 dead, after a massive spike in the number of cases, after an economic catastrophe that rivals the Great Depression, we are still waiting for action. 

The McConnell proposal cuts unemployment benefits, which expired last week. There is nothing for state and local governments. Nothing about worker safety and OSHA. Nothing to protect our pensions.

No wonder McConnell and the White House are scrambling. As negotiations go nowhere, working people are suffering.

McConnell claims America “needs another shot of adrenaline.” Well, the HEROES Act is that antidote. And the time for waiting is over. 

The HEROES Act needs a vote now.

Together, America’s labor movement is working to make that happen. Across the country, America’s labor movement is mobilizing. On June 17, we had the Workers First Caravan for Racial and Economic Justice. There were 608 events in all 50 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico. We brought more than a thousand cars and shut down the Capitol with one simple message: SENATE ACT NOW!

We’ve continued to flex our muscles and raise our voices in the days and weeks since. We’ve made over 107,000 phone calls to Senate offices. But senators are not just hearing from us. They are seeing us, too. We've continued mobilizing, with approximately 500 registered events in all 50 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico, focused on pressuring the Senate to pass the HEROES Act.

In Miami, the South Florida Central Labor Council’s caravan circled Senator Rubio and Senator Scott’s offices.

In Denver, the Colorado AFL-CIO and the Denver Area Labor Federation led a mock funeral procession by the offices of Senator Gardner, calling attention to the working people who died while the Senate failed to act.

In the Hawkeye State, the Iowa AFL-CIO held a virtual town hall on the need to pass the HEROES Act. There was an empty chair for Senator Joni Ernst, who failed to show up.

We are participating in car caravans, setting up Zoom meetings with senators and driving calls to the Senate. Each of these actions has the same demand: Pass the HEROES Act NOW!

Working people are acting heroically and resiliently in the face of this pandemic—and we will beat this pandemic. But we can’t do this alone. 

The stakes have never been higher. The urgency has never been greater.

I’m a student of history. I love learning about events and movements but also the leaders and people who shaped them. One day, my grandchildren will read about what happened in America in 2020. And when they read about the crises this country faced, they will read that America’s labor unions joined together and won a new day for working people and the communities we call home.

So let me close with this. To Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer: stand strong. To the White House and Mitch McConnell: get real.

We may be hurting, but we will never back down. We will never give up. And mark my words: we will remember in November. 

Thank you. I now want to introduce one of our great champions, D. Taylor, president of UNITE HERE.