Thank you, Brother Ron [Bieber]. It’s wonderful to be here with you in Michigan. This is union country.
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for the 2018 election. I’m ready to demonstrate the power of working people. I’m ready to advance our issues and our agenda. I’m ready to return the governor’s mansion and the state legislature to leaders who actually give a damn about workers. I don’t think that’s too much to ask!
I know how difficult it’s been here in Michigan. The auto crisis. Right to work. Flint. Privatization. And the surprise election of Donald Trump. But you’ve stood strong. You’ve done the labor movement proud. You’ve shown what toughness and grit really look like. And mark my words, working together, we are going to keep Michigan a prevailing wage state!
Repealing the prevailing wage is just another way for corporations to rig the economic rules. Right to work. Tax cuts for the rich. Attacks on our health care and retirement. We’ve seen this script before. How can anyone possibly argue that a pay cut is good for working people? This is same kind of trickle-down nonsense that brought us to the brink of a second Great Depression. We simply will not stand for it.
I don’t need to tell you about the virtues of prevailing wage and Davis-Bacon. These laws have bipartisan support. Davis and Bacon were both Republicans. They knew that the union scale means professionalism. It means jobs done safely, on time and under budget. It means fair pay so parents can raise families and live decent lives. That’s what we stand for. It’s what we’ll fight for.
Raising wages is just one piece of our proactive legislative agenda. Brothers and sisters, we’ve been on defense for too long. It is time to go on offense.
We want a good job for everyone in America who wants to work. That means the freedom to bargain with your employer, a $15 minimum wage and equal pay for women.
We want health care as a fundamental right.
We should be expanding Medicare to cover everyone 55 and older. We should rein in the power and influence of drug companies. And we should repeal the tax on union health plans once and for all.
We want real retirement security. We should be expanding Social Security and protecting our pensions!
We want the best infrastructure in the world. Roads. Bridges. Rail. High speed internet. Water that doesn’t poison our citizens. That requires trillions of dollars in investment. Donald Trump talked about being a “builder president.” Mr. President, put up or shut up. Let’s start breaking ground. Let’s start laying bricks. Let’s rebuild this country with union labor and prevailing wages.
We want trade deals that actually work for working people. NAFTA is crushing Michigan. And the new tax law gives companies even more incentives to ship American jobs overseas. Working people are demanding a new direction on trade that upholds labor rights and ends special privileges for corporations. And we are calling for an end to each and every tax break that rewards outsourcing.
Last but not least, we want freedom for immigrant workers. These are our brothers and sisters. They make our movement and our country strong. An attack on them is an attack on all of us. Congress needs to restore TPS and DACA and finally pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.
This agenda is the backbone of our political program. We are committed to electing leaders who share our values and support our issues, regardless of the letter next to their name. It’s important for our members to understand that electoral wins don’t always translate into good policy.
That’s why we will never shy away from opportunities to advance the issues we care about, no matter who happens to be in power. It’s why we must hold every elected leader accountable, regardless of what party they belong to. And it’s a reminder how important it is to elect more union members to office.
Our mission is clear. We want worker wins! We want prevailing wages! We want investments in public education and infrastructure and worker training! We want a better tomorrow, brothers and sisters, and we’ll organize for it, we’ll march for it, we’ll scrap for it and we’ll vote for it. To those who want to hold us down and keep us poor… to those who want to lower our wages and silence our voice, hear me loud and hear me clear: your days are numbered! We are the American labor movement and we will not be denied!
In the face of relentless attacks, working people are fighting back and gaining ground. Listen to this: unions in Michigan added 52,000 members in 2017. That’s incredible. And you did it with Rick Snyder, Donald Trump, a Republican Congress, a Republican legislature and right to work. Clearly, momentum is on our side. Union membership rose by a quarter of a million members last year… that’s 260,000 more lives transformed by the power of collective bargaining, lifted by unionism’s step ladder toward the middle class. 1,000 nurses down the road in Traverse City said yes to a voice on the job. And across the country in California, nearly 300 journalists at the Los Angeles Times formed the first newsroom union in the paper's 136-year history.
Brothers and sisters, America is taking notice. Our approval rating is above 60 percent, the highest in almost two decades. And it’s rising.
Our test of 2018…and beyond…will be to build on these successes, and that’s what we’ll do. We charted a path forward at last year’s AFL-CIO Convention in St. Louis. We’re ready to make progress. Each election, each organizing drive, each legislative battle… will showcase our growing clout. Yet 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 rise 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 can feel it coming. 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 in the disappointment and determination of working people, one year into the Trump Administration.
As a candidate, President Trump said a lot of the right things on trade, manufacturing and infrastructure. But his actions haven’t followed suit. Where is the infrastructure package? Where is the NAFTA fix? What happened to labeling China as a currency manipulator?
Broken promises are bad enough. But President Trump has also used his office to actively hurt working people. He has joined with corporations and their political allies to undermine the right of workers to bargain collectively. He has taken money out of our pockets and made our workplaces less safe. He has divided our country, abandoned our values and given cover to racism and other forms of bigotry.
At the end of the day, this is bigger than any politician or president. It’s about making progress for regular working people. If President Trump wants to change course and join us in the fight to raise wages and standards, strengthen our democracy and build better lives, we will be ready. But if he continues down his current path, workers will be looking for a new president.
Regardless of who’s in the White House, we’re going to keep growing our movement and keep building our momentum, laser focused on true victories that bring a better day for regular working people here in Michigan and across this country.
Brothers and sisters, we are the richest country in the world at our richest point in history, yet at no time in the past century has there been such a gap between the super-wealthy and the rest of us.
This is our opportunity. We are the only organized voice for working people in America. We have no other fidelity. We care about wages, about healthy workplaces, about our brothers and sisters and our communities.
The economy isn’t like the weather. Jobs don’t blow in from the Great Lakes, and they sure don’t come from tax breaks to billionaires. The economy is nothing but a set of rules. The rules are written by the men and women we elect. Those rules decide the winners and the losers, and for nearly four decades, they've been written to ensure working people are the losers.
Brothers and sisters, we can change this.
We can create jobs by investing in infrastructure and the basic research that drives manufacturing. We can create prosperity and a better future with quality public education and worker training and a real fix for bad trade deals, so trade can lift us up, not tear us down.
Best of all, we can create prosperity by winning more organizing drives, by positioning our unions in growing industries and by negotiating hard to win more of what we create.
Let’s show America what victory looks like! It’ll take work. 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 Michigan back! To take America back! This is our time. This is our moment. We’re ready for a fight. Our opponents are bold. They’re well-funded and ruthless. I say, bring it on! We've taken your best shot and we're still standing. Thank you. God bless you. God bless the work you do!