AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka delivered the following remarks at the American Postal Workers Union 24th Biennial National Convention:
Good morning, APWU! It’s great to be home in Pennsylvania!
Brother Mark (Dimondstein), thank you for that introduction and for all that you do for working people. You’re fighting the good fight alongside everyone in this room, and it’s my honor to call you a brother.
Brothers and sisters, I want to start by extending my deepest sympathies to each of you. Know that the AFL-CIO and the entire labor movement join you in mourning the loss of your president emeritus and our friend, William Burrus.
We miss him dearly, but Brother Bill has left behind something so much greater. His barrier-smashing legacy is embedded into the fabric of the APWU and our movement for working people.
He was a tireless advocate for his fellow postal workers...an unwavering fighter in the struggle for social and economic justice.
Brothers and sisters, he refused to accept the inequities he saw in the world. He put his foot down and fought for something better!
It’s time to follow in his footsteps. It’s time to fight like hell...to end the injustice plaguing us...to end the indignity we face...to end the inequality paralyzing our country...to end the egregious idea that exploitation is the cost of doing business.
Brothers and sisters, we have some big fights ahead of us. And when I think of the doors we need to knock...the people we need to reach...and the communities we need to engage, there is nothing I’d rather have behind me than an army of postal workers!
Bringing people together...it’s what you do. It’s what you’ve always done. It’s in your blood. From New York City to the most remote outposts of Alaska...for nearly two and a half centuries, your work has enabled that fundamental American idea...E pluribus unum...out of many, one.
You are the best of our movement! You embody public service. You are government at its best—diligently serving the needs of all those who live and work here.
So, when I hear right-wingers talk about breaking up the Post Office and selling it off to the highest bidder, I start to wonder...what don’t they want to privatize? What don’t they want to put in the hands of corporations?
That broken corporate ideology is alive and well in the White House...and it’s been coupled by the Trump administration's failure to meet even basic responsibilities...the bread and butter services that a government is supposed to provide.
Just think about this. The Postal Service’s board of governors has nine members. Anyone know how many vacancies there are?
Without a Board of Governors, the Postal Service is functioning under what's called "temporary emergency status." You can't plan. You can't make decisions. You can't make the investments you need. You can't address any of the challenges you’re facing.
That's no way to run a government. And boy, "temporary emergency" is a pretty fitting term for how this administration does its business.
Now, the same corporate right-wing that can’t do its job wants to come after your jobs! They want to reduce mail delivery. They’ve want to destroy your pensions. They want to cut your benefits, slash your pay and destroy your union!
Brothers and sisters, WE SAY NO!
We’re gonna beat back these attacks!
We’re gonna defend the Postal Service!
We’re gonna defend our unions!
We’re gonna defend our communities, our country and the working people who serve them!
And if these corporate hacks want to get to any of the hard-working postal workers in this room, they’ve got 13 million of us to get through first...starting with me!
Something is happening in America, brothers and sisters. Workers are writing a comeback story unlike any I’ve seen in my 50 years in the labor movement.
262,000 new members joined unions in 2017...and here’s the best part...three quarters of them were under the age of 35. We’re rallying the next generation to our cause, and our popularity is reaching new heights across the country. Half of non-union workers would vote to join a union today if given the chance. They want to join us. They want a voice on the job.
Is it any wonder why? We transform lives, brothers and sisters! We raise wages...a 10 to 20 percent boost for eight straight decades, according to economists at Princeton. We negotiate top-notch benefits. We make work safe, retirement secure and build the economic future that our kids and grandkids deserve! Unions have always been at the core of this country’s fundamental promise, and I’ll be damned if we’re going to stop now!
Brothers and sisters, we’re not even close to done. 2018 is the year of the worker.
Imagine what we could accomplish with leaders who actually fought for working people instead of trying to crush our unions and silence our collective voice.
Well, I have a message for every politician, Republican or Democrat, who wants to delay or derail our progress: Get on board or get the hell out of our way!
We’ve proven what we can do on the campaign trail.
We’ve elected pro-worker allies in Alabama and Virginia and Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
And if you want more proof of our momentum, look no further than Missouri.
Last Tuesday, voters there went to the polls to decide the future of right to work.
And by 2-1, the Show Me State sent that horrible law into the ash heap of history.
It wasn’t even close!
We needed 100,000 signatures to put right to work on the ballot. We got more than 300,000.
We knocked more than 800,000 doors. We dialed more than 1 million phones. We made our case at 1,000 different worksites...talking about good union jobs and the power of collective action.
We did what we do best. And, it worked!
Democrats voted no. Half of Republicans voted no. Two out of every three Missourians who cast a ballot voted no.
The Chamber of Commerce said that, for every punch they threw, working people threw ten more. Even the Wall Street Journal editorial board is now warning CEOs that unions are on the attack.
The labor movement made it crystal clear that WE WILL NOT cede an inch after Janus.
Brothers and sisters, November could not get here soon enough.
We have the power. Now, we have to keep using it!
We can’t slow down! We can’t stop! We have to keep going!
We’re gonna hit the streets, knock the doors, dial the phones and organize, organize, organize!
Let’s reclaim America for the people who build it and make it work!
Let’s reclaim the future for all of our kids—not just the children of privilege.
Let’s flex our power like never before!
Let’s show every robber baron and corporate hack that we aren’t going anywhere!
We’re spoiling for a fight. I say, bring it on! We've taken their best shot, and we're still standing. We’re fearless. We’re strong. We’re powerful. We’re united.
This is our country...and it’s time...high time...we took it back.
Brothers and sisters, the road ahead won’t be easy. But here’s the truth: throughout the entire history of our movement, we’ve never had anything handed to us.
Frederick Douglass once said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
A fitting summary of the labor movement.
Brothers and sisters, we have fought for every victory. We bled to secure our right to stand together and bargain collectively. We marched and sacrificed to end child labor. We faced down the powers of Washington and Wall Street to win a minimum wage.
In the face of seemingly insurmountable opposition, we steadily built a fairer economy and a more just society...because we had one advantage on our side: Solidarity.
American greatness...American decency...the American Dream itself was built through solidarity...as workers joined arms and marched forward as one in common cause.
Each time they fired us...or shot at us...or violated our dignity...we grew stronger.
Bonded by a common struggle, working people kept fighting and discovered a fundamental truth that carries us to this day: You can’t stop all of us.
We are an unassailable force when—and only when—we stand together.
I remember back when my son Richard was young—maybe three or four years old. He and his buddy Chad were driving around in the backyard in one of those battery operated jeeps.
He must have heard me talking on the phone, because he drove up and asked: “Dad, what’s a union?”
So I told him to get out of the jeep and try to push it up the hill in our backyard. He strained and struggled, but he couldn’t get it up the hill. Then I told his friend Chad to give him a hand. Working together, they got the job done. I looked right at my son and said: “That’s a union...people doing things together that they can’t do alone.”
Brothers and sisters, working people are climbing that hill. Every day. Against all odds.
Solidarity got us here. And solidarity is going to take us forward.
As the rules and tools of our economy continue to change...as the very nature of work itself evolves...we can win a future that advances us all.
We can demand a world where the gains from technology translate into better pay and working conditions for everyone...where the rise of e-commerce means more delivery days, not fewer...where groundbreaking advances allow us to have better, safer and more interesting jobs.
We can create a new era of universal prosperity, one where working people share in the unprecedented wealth that we have created.
But here’s the thing: We won’t win as postal workers or steelworkers or teachers or miners. We won’t win as men or women, as black or white, as gay or straight.
We will only win as a single movement of working people, from every region and every sector, fighting for the interests of all of our brothers and sisters...fighting for the rights and freedoms of all who live and work here.
That’s our power! It doesn’t come from Washington or politicians or the courts.
Our power lies in the 55 unions united through the AFL-CIO...in the nearly 13 million members who know they are surrounded by an army of brothers and sisters.
Our power lies in the workers who are standing together, marching together and fighting
together in communities across the country, arms locked in unflinching solidarity.
Together we can end the oppression that still hangs over us and secure the brighter future that we deserve.
Together, we can win fairer pay, better benefits, and healthier, more fulfilling lives.
Together, we can fight off all those who would deny us the fruits of our labor.
Brothers and sisters, hear me loud and hear me clear. We’re not going to be held down or pushed around. We refuse to be walked over, talked over or told to sit down and shut up. We will not settle for less.
Because we keep America safe. We build the roads, bring the mail and lift the loads. We stand tall. We don’t run and hide. We wake our country up every single day. We tuck her into bed at night. We’re the American labor movement, and we will not...we will not...be denied!