Trumka at USW Election 2018 Rally: Everything Is on the Line

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka delivered the following remarks at the United Steelworkers Election 2018 rally: 

Good afternoon, brothers and sisters. Thank you, Brother Leo (Gerard)! Let’s give it up for Leo Gerard and the United Steelworkers! This union will always have a special place in my heart.

As I start, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the tragedy that happened here last weekend. My prayers continue to be with the victims of Tree of Life Synagogue, their families, the Jewish community and the entire Steel city. And, my deepest thanks go out to the first responders...our brothers and sisters on the frontlines...who ran toward danger to help those in need. Four officers were injured, countless others were deeply affected and I wish them all a speedy recovery.

This was a senseless act of hatred and violence. And, the ripple effects run deep...not just here in Pittsburgh, but across the country and the world. But, I know Pittsburgh and its people well. This is home. This is where Mr. Rogers taught us what it means to be a good neighbor. This is where steelworkers along the Three Rivers crafted the metals that built the world...while the roots of the American Jewish movement grew in Squirrel Hill. This is a city that...like the labor movement...stands together...in good times, and especially, in dark times.

Brothers and sisters...moments like this demand the very best of all of us. For too many years, anti-Semitism and other forms of hate simmered below the surface and on the dark corners of the internet. Now, for personal gain, some politicians have chosen to create a political climate where the abhorrent has become almost mainstream.

As the labor movement, we understand better than anyone the urgency of this moment. When rhetoric spills over into violence, it’s our brothers and sisters’ blood shed and lives lost. We are part of every community around the country. And long after the last news crew is gone, we are there with our unions—helping to heal the wounds and pick up the pieces.

We cannot allow ourselves to become numb or turn a blind eye. It is up to us to stand up and make clear what we will not accept. Change starts with us... with working people. It is up to us to hold every politician and person in power accountable—not only for their actions, but for their words and for their silence.

Everything we are and hope to be is on the line right now. This election on Tuesday is bigger than any politician or party. Our entire future is on the ballot. This is our chance to show that ordinary people….ordinary workers...can rise up and demand a better path forward for every person.

Standing here before you, it’s hard not to think about my own family. I’m a third generation coal miner from Nemacolin. And I carry Western Pennsylvania with me every single day. I grew up here. I learned about solidarity here. I experienced the union difference here.

Early in the morning, my father used to say to me: “Another day. Another dollar. Down in the hole.” He earned his living underground. But he found his passion and purpose up here on these streets in the United Mine Workers of America.

You see, brothers and sisters, coal jobs didn’t just become good jobs. Steel jobs didn’t just become good jobs. Auto jobs and construction jobs and public sector jobs didn’t just become good jobs. We made them good jobs! The labor movement did that! And I’ll be damned if we’re going to let any politician take that away from us!

Our movement...our values...our way of life...it’s all at stake Tuesday. This region has always gone above and beyond for the country we love. Pennsylvania played a crucial role in the Civil War, supplying 360,000 soldiers for the Union side. The battle at Gettysburg—not far from where we gather today—changed the course of history.

I’m a student of the Civil War. It’s my hobby. I’m amazed that in every story, every battle, they talk about the generals. But they never mention the foot soldiers. The common man and common woman who joined together to do uncommon things. Let me tell you: that’s how I feel today. You are those men and women. You have the power to change the world.

Just look at what’s happening in America. 262,000 new members joined unions in 2017. Three-quarters of them were under the age of 35. Gallup just put our popularity at 62 percent—a 15-year high. We repealed right to work in Missouri with more than 67 percent of the vote. And new research from MIT shows that half of non-union workers would vote for a union today if given the chance. That’s more than 60 million people—the population of Italy!

This election is our chance to take another step forward. And let me tell you something: the union-busters are scared. In that great Missouri victory, the Chamber of Commerce said that, for every punch they threw, working people threw ten more. And even the Wall Street Journal warned CEOs that unions are on the attack. Well, I’ve got news for them: you ain't seen nothing yet!

This election is a fundamental choice between two competing ideas. The first says corporations are people, wealth trickles down and workers can just fend for themselves. The second says workers have dignity and rights and unions are good for America. The first gives cover to discrimination, bigotry and hate. The second says America is the land of the free and the home of the brave and I don’t care if you’re black, white, gay, straight, trans, immigrant, native born, Christian, Jewish or Muslim...this is our country and we’re going to fight for it!

That’s what Tuesday is all about. We get to be the deciding factor in where this country goes. Working together, we can fill the halls of power with union members and allies.

That’s why we’ve got to get out the vote to re-elect Governor Tom Wolf. From the moment he took office, he’s been a champion of working people. He’s invested billions of dollars in infrastructure, job training and education. He’s fought back against every attack on collective bargaining. He expanded Medicaid. And that’s just in four years. Imagine what we can accomplish together with another four.

We’ve got to get out the vote to re-elect Senator Bob Casey. Bobby has been there for us time and again. He understands there is no middle class without the labor movement. He’s voted to lift our wages, protect our health care and pensions and strengthen the freedom to organize. We need Bob Casey in the U.S. Senate.

We’ve got to get out the vote for our friends in the U.S. House of Representatives. Congressman Conor Lamb got this momentum started in April by running as an unapologetic supporter of unions. Let’s help secure him the full term he deserves. And let’s send Congressman Mike Doyle and every other worker advocate into the halls of power with him, from Harrisburg to our nation’s capital.

Each of you here today...you can get us there. You are our greatest asset. We need your passion. When you talk to your coworkers...when you talk to your friends and family...that’s how progress is won!

So as I wrap up, I’ll leave you with two messages. The first is thank you. Thanks for being here and for caring. For spending some time away from your kids, grandkids and family.

And my second message is this: VOTE UNION!

Don’t vote Republican or Democrat. Don’t vote liberal or conservative. Don’t vote red or blue. VOTE UNION!

For higher wages and quality, affordable health care...vote union!

To protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security from Mitch McConnell and his cronies...vote union!

For the freedom to organize and bargain collectively...vote union!

For the infrastructure we deserve...vote union!

For trade that actually lifts workers up for a change...vote union!

For an America free from hate…vote union!

For our founders...for our children...for each other...VOTE UNION...VOTE UNION...VOTE UNION!

That’s what today’s about. Getting our members to vote union. Come Tuesday, we’re going to choose a path that makes this economy and political system work for workers one more time. And the uncommon thing that you’re going to do together as common men and women will change the direction of this country.

Because we’re the ones who wake America up every single day, and put her to bed at night. We roll the steel. We make the tires. We build the roads and stoke the fires. We’ll stand strong. We’ll never run and hide. We’re the American labor movement, and we will not...WE WILL NOT...be denied!

Thank you! God bless you all!