The second day of the USW Convention opened with ALF-CIO President Rich Trumka addressing the over 3,000 delegates with a message of unity.
Trumka echoed the theme of the convention, Power of Unity, while discussing his last year of travelling with Steelworker members across the country on the campaign trail. Having candid conversations with many of our members, they all spoke of the same things they wanted: a fairer economy, new rules and a better life.
“If the election had been a referendum on a stronger union movement, a new direction on trade, good jobs and a brighter future for ourselves and our families, we would have won in a landslide.
But it wasn’t. The election was between two human beings, imperfect as all of us are, and we owe it to our members and to America to do everything we can to win progress from this new administration, just as we did with the last, “ Trumka said.
Addressing the current administration, Trumka made it very clear that the labor movement was instrumental in the fight to kill the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The Steelworkers were in the font of the fight not only on TPP but all bad trade bills. Calling on the membership to put our issues at the forefront, Trumka made it clear we need to assert our political independence.
“Our unions plan to play a large role in the renegotiation of NAFTA, and the Steelworkers will be at the front of the fight. Nobody knows trade like the USW,” he said. “Working together, we will demand a better deal and make certain this process is not used to further tilt the rules in favor of big corporations. Our message to President Trump is this: Keep your promise. Rewrite NAFTA so it works for workers. Bring our jobs back.”
“These corporate-written deals have torn apart our country for too long. Working people want a new direction. We saw it with the TPP. America is ready for something better,” he said. “We’re ending the era of bad trade, and we’re doing it now. It’s not enough for us to wish for a better life. We’ve got to win it.”
Trumka has reached out to the president and let him know the concerns of the men and woman of the labor movement. Delivering a 25-page letter, he requested that President Trump follow through on his campaign pledges by laying out a vision that reflects America’s priorities, one that raises wages, keeps workers safe, protects retirement security, strengthens unions and provides opportunity for all. He further asked the president to use his office and influence to call for an end to workplace intimidation, reject “right to work” once and for all and promote and protect the freedom of every single worker to form or join a union and bargain for a better life.
In closing, Trumka reminded our delegation that it all begins with solidarity and unity. That collective action is part of the national conversation now and that we’re leading that discussion.
“I’m talking about real solidarity, not empty gestures and bandwagon posturing. The type of solidarity where the outcome is still uncertain and it may cost you something in the short-term. Solidarity is most important when times are tough and disagreements are strong—when the sun isn’t shining,” Trumka said. “How we respond to the challenges and opportunities of today and in the days to come will define who and what we are as a labor movement and a nation.”