AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka drew several standing ovations during an electrifying speech to delegates and guests on the fourth day of the SMART Convention Aug. 14.
The former United Mineworkers’ president began his speech by addressing the merger of the former Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association and the former United Transportation Union into SMART saying, “A merger like yours isn’t easy, but it has potential for tremendous, tremendous value.”
“I know how hard it is to unite a movement, how hard it is to unite a diverse membership. It’s difficult to strike the right balance. But it’s worth the effort – that’s how you achieve greater strength. The merging of cultures for greater power, for greater strength – that’s called unionism, that’s the power of unionism – plain and simple.”
Trumka said that the AFL-CIO and its affiliates plan to help more working families, through our unions to build stronger careers and a stronger future for the United States.
“The best way to fair pay, the best way to retirement security, and best way to a better tomorrow, so you can get your family a decent life and future, is through a union contract,” he asserted.
He brought the delegation to their feet when he forcefully stated, “We’re the workers of America. We build systems and we make them run. We lift the loads, and we answer the call. We wake our country up every day and we tuck her into bed every night. We won’t be turned aside, we won’t sit down, we won’t back up, and we won’t shut up. This is our country!”
Trumka said that the endless pursuit of higher profits by corporations and the wealthiest one-percent at the expense of human lives must end, using as an example railroads seeking to operate trains with one-person crews.
“We need our trains fully staffed. We’re talking about the safety of our communities, us,” he shouted, receiving a prolonged standing ovation.
“We’re talking about the lives of our workers. Shortcuts are simply too dangerous. Hundreds and thousands of us die every year because of those shortcuts.”
Trumka said that the unequal distribution of wealth did not just happen. The AFL-CIO’s new program, Common Sense Economics, tells workers how corporations and the wealthy did it to us.
“The economy is not like the weather—there are rules that decide the way it works, and the people who make the rules are the people we elect.
“When it comes to politics, you won’t find us coming together with just any candidate. We’ll work for anyone who works with us, and we won’t hesitate to hold anyone’s feet to the fire.”
Speaking about political support and the Red–Blue divide, Trumka said labor must support candidates who can say, “I can, I will, and I have done…for working people.”
“And we’re asking every candidate who seeks our support some hard questions. Tell us how you’re going to do it, before we get on board.
He asked everybody in the convention hall to get involved in the political process.
“This electoral season, be the first to knock on doors, to work a phone bank, to motivate working people. If you want all of us to get our fair share, then we need the right leaders in every corner of the United States.”
To view a video of Trumka’s complete remarks, click here.