Trumka at USA Gala: Protect, Preserve and Pass On Our Nation’s Outdoor Heritage

Washington, D.C.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka delivered the following remarks at the Union Sportsmen's Alliance 2019 Conservation Gala: 

Brother Scott (Vance), thank you for the kind introduction, and most importantly, for your leadership of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA). There’s no doubt in my mind that this organization is skyrocketing to success because of your vision and advocacy. Thank you.

To the USA Board of Directors, your support and guidance are second to none. Thank you. 

Brothers and sisters, thank you all for being here tonight and welcome to the House of Labor.

I’m so proud to be the Chairman of this wonderful organization that brings together two of my favorite things: Unionism and the great outdoors. And, I’m especially honored to be the very first member of the USA. It’s true. The number on my membership card is stamped “1.”

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 12 years since seven union leaders stood with me when we launched the USA to bring working people together in common purpose—uniting our communities and caring for our planet in a way that makes us stronger and better.

Today, we’re growing, reaching more people and doing more for our communities and the outdoors.

The USA now has more than 300,000 active members—and counting—making us the fastest-growing nonprofit conservation organization in the country. 

Last year alone, we held more than 50 conservation dinners and shoots, bringing together more than 8,000 union members. 

We formed many new partnerships with industry and conservation leaders, like the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Outtech, Worldwide Trophy Adventures and the National Wild Turkey Federation, which lift up our members and advance our mission. We also partnered with the Union Veterans Council and offered membership free of cost to all union veterans. I’m pretty proud of that one. 

We celebrated the grand opening of our new, union-built world headquarters in Spring Hill, Tennessee. 

And most importantly, we delivered on our mission to complete more conservation projects and hold more community outreach events than ever before. We were responsible for 40 Boots on the Ground projects from Maryland to Oregon—and everywhere in between—where more than 600 volunteers worked 5,000+ hours and donated a quarter of a million dollars in labor. This brings the total number of hours from this fantastic program to almost 29,000 and the total value of donated labor to almost $1 million. 

Remember, this was all just in the past year—when we broke every previous record to date. And, I know this year will be an even greater success.  

I want to give you a few more numbers that truly show the widespread community impact that makes the USA so powerful and promising.

On a single day this year, 800 kids across the country got to experience the thrill of casting out and waiting for a tug on the end of the line. 800 kids—in a single day! 

Since 2017, we’ve taken 10,000 kids fishing. You heard that right: 10,000. And, they get to take home their very own rod and reel combo and tackle box. 

Imagine the influence these experiences have on them. Imagine the love of the outdoors these special days spark. And, imagine the new conservationists and nature enthusiasts born from those priceless moments at the end of the dock. 

One of my favorite things to do in this world is to take my grandson, Trey, fishing. I get to show him all the same things my dad taught me all those years ago. Every family should get to experience that bond. It’s a real gift.

That’s why projects like the Suncoast Youth Center in Tampa are so important. 

We’re finishing up some work on it right now—adding a handicapped-accessible ramp, dock and pier built with 100% union power—so it’s ready for the grand opening in November. When it opens, 6,000 kids every year will get to go fishing and learn about marine life and conservation. 

That’s why we do what we do, brothers and sisters. Introducing kids—and adults—to the great outdoors, experiencing its beauty and learning how to protect our planet brings people together.

It’s something that transcends politics and partisanship and ideology. It belongs to all of us, and it’s passed down from generation to generation. 

This work strengthens our union family, improves our communities and shows the public the value of unions. It’s a win-win-win.  

But it’s only possible because of everyone here tonight who shares this vision and is willing to work hard to make it a reality. There’s not another organization in the country that brings together various union trades at every level, from the international to the local, to protect, preserve and pass on our nation’s outdoor heritage. 

I’m so proud of what we’ve done together, and I’m excited for our future. We all should be. 

Teddy Roosevelt said it best when describing our country’s beautiful lands: "We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune."

Every single day, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance proves that we are a nation and people worthy of our outdoor heritage. 

So, stand with me, support the USA and keep up the good work. 

Thank you, and God bless you for all you’ve done, and all you will do!