“The future is truly ours to shape.”
With these words, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on April 4 that the national labor federation would be active in pushing its agenda for working people and their families.
“Everybody deserves (an opportunity for) a good job,” he declared, adding that the AFL-CIO would fight for all workers whether they belong to a union or not. He said the federation holds its fidelity to working people and not to a particular political party.
In discussing the 2016 election, he said people were “crying out for new economic rules” that work for them, which is something that applied to both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton union voters.
Trumka stated the union movement would stand with President Trump if what he proposes is good for workers, but if the White House “pulls the bait-and-switch, you are going to fail.” He addressed the administration’s $1 billion infrastructure idea as a good start but asked how the money will be spent. He acknowledged he is worried when presidential executive orders roll back actions whose original intentions were to help workers at their job sites and at their banks.
Trumka told the audience of several hundred that the AFL-CIO would be watching what the president does if legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives eliminating project labor agreements on federal projects clears the Senate and reaches the Oval Office. “Will he sign or will he veto? Our job will be to get the facts out.”
He talked about being a third-generation coal miner, growing up in southwestern Pennsylvania with good public schooling and affordable college “because of union contracts. Now mineworkers are lobbying Congress for their health care and pensions.
“Unionism gave us the ladder to the middle class,” he continued. “For too many people, that ladder’s gone. We have to rebuild it rung by rung.”
To emphasize his point, he introduced Michael Smith, who lost his union job at the Chicago Nabisco factory last year when the company’s owner, Mondelez, moved production to Mexico. “These (U.S.) factories should not be a thing of the past,” Trumka avowed.
In his opening, Trumka pointed out that April 4 is Equal Pay Day – and that, on average, women have to work an extra 100 days to get the same salary as men. He called this wrong and said the “economy is out of balance, tilted toward the corporations.”
“Bring the jobs home and invest in America,” he proclaimed. “When we stand together, we win.”
The AFL-CIO has 55 affiliates (including the SIU) which represent 12.5 million workers. SIU President Michael Sacco is the federation’s longest-serving executive council member.