Good morning brothers and sisters!
I want to welcome you all here to St. Louis, Missouri. I know that for many of you, just getting here was quite a journey and required long lines and longer flights. Thank you for making such a big effort to join us at the 2017 AFL-CIO Convention.
All of us in this room represent the beating heart of the global labor movement. Yet this movement is much bigger than we are. It extends beyond this hall and past our international borders.
We come from different countries and social and political realities, yet we share a deep belief that everyone who works for a living has our same basic economic interests and the same values. Workers here and around the world need decent work, and we need to be able to speak freely with a unified voice in our unions to win a life of dignity.
And I am sure that many of you want to hear about how working people are responding to the administration of President Trump.
Sadly, during this past year, it has become clear that President Trump has no intention to follow through on the commitments he made to working people during his campaign.
You can go down the list of promises and priorities, from health care to trade, infrastructure investment to tax cut proposals, and just about everything else, and you see an administration that sides every time, with the interests of Wall Street and the rich and powerful. And not with the working people of this country.
You can see from the proposed cuts to funding for global engagement and the proposals to build walls … and limit the number of refugees and immigrants coming to our country … that this administration does not value the global community.
As working people, we know the value of systems, whether in the workplace, our cities or towns, our nation or the world.
We don’t rely on vast wealth to make things happen. We count on integrity, on the rule of law, on strong multilateral systems that ensure peace and security and the protection of rights.
The attempt by this administration to weaken global engagement is hurting workers, the environment, and our ability to create a more just global economy.
That’s why the AFL-CIO is deeply committed to continuing our work to strengthen the global labor movement. The need is as great as it ever has been, and so is our resolve.
We will continue to build a strong effective movement that can fight for improved working conditions and for greater social justice.
It won’t be easy. We need to take on the policies backed by all the money on Wall Street, and at the same time, we need to take on racism and right-wing populism, that is often linked to white nationalism.
This racism, sexism and bigotry… is the worst kind of evil in our world, and does not represent the true values of America.
Confronting and marginalizing the deep-rooted and ugly racism that continues to affect our country and this very city where we’re talking today, is critical to our movement’s agenda.
As you may know, today we will have a conference dedicated to building a diverse and inclusive movement, and we will continue that discussion throughout the convention.
I hope you will join in the conversation, and share some of your own experiences and challenges in your efforts to overcome racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia.
Brothers and sisters, you have arrived in a city that is rich with labor history. St. Louis was the site, it is generally recognized, of the first general strike about 140 years ago in 1877. The strike began among railroad workers and quickly grew into a mass movement, with thousands of workers in a host of different industries.
Those brothers and sisters—our founders—advocated for the 8 hour work day and an end to child labor.
Today, St. Louis continues the fight for justice and workers’ rights. Our unions and allied organizations are working together every day to shape an agenda for greater equality.
And that’s why every four years at the AFL-CIO convention we recommit to our priorities. We come together to unify and strengthen our movement, so that we can continue together to improve the lives of working people.
Our priorities include continued engagement in global organizing campaigns and a bold, forward-looking strategy to shape the future of work.
Listen, when it comes down to it, we’re doing exactly the same thing the leaders of our movement did … so long ago here in St. Louis, and in so many cities and countries around the world.
The economic rules today aren’t working for us. I don’t care if you pick bananas in Guatemala or sew shirts in Bangladesh, if you’re an autoworker in Detroit or Mexico City. We’re working harder and harder for less and less, because the rich and powerful have written the economic rules for too long.
We’re ready to take it back. We’re ready to win what we need. We want work to pay. We want decent lives for ourselves and our children. We want a secure retirement and health care when we get sick.
These aren’t luxuries. These are the basics, and they’re not too much to ask. We make the beds. We build the roads. We teach the classes and we lift the loads. We do the job. We never run and hide. We are the organized workers of the world and we will not be denied!
Thank you. God bless you. Thank you again for coming. It’s great to have you.