Speech | Better Pay and Benefits · Workplace Health and Safety

Trumka to Steelworkers: You Know How to Win

Washington, D.C.

Thank you, Brother Stan [Johnson]. But, listen, before we go on, let’s take a moment of silence to honor those men and women we have lost to workplace accidents or chronic diseases.

God bless their memories.

Sisters and brothers, I’m glad to be here, and I’m doubly glad all of you are here, too. Washington needs to hear from the Steelworkers.

In a few days I’ll be in Indianapolis for a rally at Carrier. The streets will be blocked off. We’re going to shut down the whole city, because America is at a tipping point.

We live in the richest country on the face of the earth. Corporate profits are at record levels.

We have more billionaires than ever before, yet a report came out last week showing wages have been flat as a pancake for 16 years.

That hurts. So of course we’re angry. But we’re not blind with anger. We know the issues.

We know the difference between talk and action. We know the power of unity and the pitfalls of division.

We have got to be clear-eyed, because our jobs and wages and the future of our country are on the line, right now. It’s time for us to step up in our communities and in this election season.

So I look forward to joining the Steelworkers and thousands of other trade unionists and community members in Indianapolis. And I am excited about all of the important fights ahead, including this election. If we mobilize and we do our jobs, we will be stronger in the end. I promise you that.

Everywhere I go, I’ll be talking about trade, and I’ll be talking about politics. I’m going to connect the dots.

That’s what your Rapid Response program is all about. You remind our elected officials that the rules they write have real-life consequences.

You also remind them of the real-life political consequences of stacking the deck against working families.

You see, our economy isn’t like the weather. It doesn’t just happen. The wind didn’t move 1,400 jobs to Mexico; Carrier took them there. Our good manufacturing jobs haven’t disappeared out of thin air. CEOs are making these choices because America’s trade and tax policies encourage them to.

This rigged economic game is hurting America. That’s why working people need to write the rules.

We’re starting to do that, in large part thanks to you and your incredible Rapid Response team. We put the brakes on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Let me be crystal clear about something: We support trade. What we oppose is bad trade deals that hurt workers. The TPP is a bad deal. That’s why we’re fighting against it, and it’s our job, your job, to make sure every politician in Washington understands that if this thing comes up for a vote, we are going to kill it once and for all. Enough is enough.

The Steelworkers are a powerful union. You organize and mobilize. You know how and when to strike. And no union is better at filing smart, strategic trade cases with the Department of Commerce. It’s a shame you have to, but you’ve won more decisions than I can count. I think you’ve got four cases going right now: hot-rolled steel, cold-rolled steel, corrosion-resistant steel and cut-to-length plate, if I’m not mistaken.

You have also been relentless in the fight to create fairer and safer workplaces. We need to keep pushing for the WAGE Act. If an employer violates our right to organize, they should get more than just a slap on the wrist. The WAGE Act will help ensure every worker has the right to join a union freely and fairly.

With Workers Memorial Day coming up later this week, it is also long past time for Congress to pass the Protecting America’s Workers Act. I appreciate your leadership on this. As a former coal miner, workplace safety is personal to me. I know this hits close to home for you too—especially in the paper industry. Keeping workers safe is fundamental to our mission. No one should have to risk their life to make a living.

When you put it all together, it’s clear that the Steelworkers know how to build power. You know how to use it. The Steelworkers know how to win.

I’ve been proud to stand alongside you. The Steelworkers have been part of my life for over 50 years, ever since my father took me to my first picket line in Pennsylvania.

When it came time for me to lead the Mine Workers, you were there. And I have always stood strong with Steel.

Brothers and sisters, that’s solidarity.

We need solidarity today. Working people want change, and the vultures are circling. There is no denying that Donald Trump sees our members as his path to the presidency. His rhetoric is tailored to people who are sick of an economy that works for the wealthy few. To hammer home his point, Trump is playing on the worst fears and anxieties of working-class voters, many of them white. We know this tactic. We’ve seen it before. Trump wants to divide this country in order to conquer it. That’s the opposite of solidarity.

When Trump mocks women or immigrants or Muslims, remember what he really means: He doesn’t believe in equality, and that’s a core American value. Let that sink in for a moment. Donald Trump doesn’t share our core American values.

In fact, all Trump cares about is money and power.

Let me give you Trump in a nutshell: He says America’s wages are too high. Your wages are too high.

He says he’ll bring back steel. He says he’ll bring back coal. Baloney. Remember, Trump supports right to work 100 percent. You think he has any interest in fighting for us? Trump would never take our trade cases seriously. He would never invest in clean coal and other job-creating technologies.

Here’s more: Trump won’t negotiate with union workers at his casino and hotel in Las Vegas. He won’t hire union at his construction project here in Washington. And he wants to win working-class votes?

Donald Trump is a dangerous, delusional demagogue. He is unfit for America’s highest office.

We will hold Trump accountable, but listen close: We will hold every candidate accountable. We are the American labor movement. We don’t work for any political party or any candidate. Our agenda drives our politics, not the other way around.

We are and will remain focused on working people. We are the main event, and it doesn’t matter whether we are Democrats, Republicans or anything in between. We are shaping the debate and setting the terms of this election.

We are ready to unleash the most comprehensive electoral program in AFL-CIO history. Join us. I’m asking you to be part of our shared campaign. We need the Steelworkers on the front-lines. In 2016 and beyond, let’s stand together. Let’s fight together. And let’s win together.

There’s only one best way to build a middle class, and that’s with unionism.

There’s only one best way to win change in a democracy, and that’s by mobilization.

To do that, we’ve got to connect the dots, and that’s what I’m asking you to do.

We’re building a movement in America. We call it Raising Wages. It’s a movement where workers write the economic rules. A movement where unions grow and inequality shrinks. It’s a movement where you can grab onto the American Dream no matter what you look like, where you come from, how much money your parents have or who you love.

Because, by God, we’re building a better America from coast to coast.

When it comes to doing right for working people, we define that vision. We embody those values. We are and will be the tip of the spear when it comes to fixing what’s broken in America. We are the change-makers.

We have unity. We have solidarity. And we are ready to win justice and jobs today, and a better tomorrow.

We know the road up toward shared prosperity and a prosperous middle class—it’s the union highway, and it’s big enough for everyone who works for a living!

God bless you and God bless the work you do!

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