Trumka: Show us the ‘raising wages’ agenda

In frank speech, AFL-CIO president says Americans  skeptical about both parties


WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 28, 2015) — As the 2016 presidential battle begins, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka delivered a important speech this morning to say that, after nearly two generations of national leaders pursuing policies that have “either worsened inequality or nibbled around the edges,” working Americans are skeptical that candidates from either party will step up to fix an economy deliberately built for lower wages. But, he said, “The labor movement’s doors are open to any candidate who is serious about transforming our economy with high and rising wages.”

(Skip ahead to 6:55 for his introduction or 8:26 for the post-introductions speech.)


In a live-streamed speech Tuesday morning from the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C., Trumka explained the skepticism and cynicism many voters feel by delivering a frank assessment of a U.S. economy deliberately built to suppress wages:

Once again, America is emerging from an economic crisis, but those of us who count on paychecks are not emerging. And that’s not an accident. Workers are being held down on purpose. For almost two generations, our economic policies — the very structure of our economy — have been designed to push incomes down for the vast majority of working people. This was planned. It was not the accidental result of the wandering and clumsy hand of capitalism.

Since the 1980s, the growing political power of the wealthiest among us has rewritten our labor laws, our trade laws, our tax laws, our monetary policy, our fiscal policy, our financial regulations all to push wages down and increase corporate profits. To put speculation over private investment. And tax cuts over public investment. The results: runaway inequality, unemployment, falling wages, rising economic insecurity, collapsing infrastructure, deteriorating national competitiveness, all driver by gigantic imbalances in economic and political power.

But, Trumka said, the AFL-CIO has a bold plan to turn this ship around.

We have created an agenda for shared prosperity called raising wages. It will be our inspiration and our measuring stick throughout the presidential campaign.  Raising wages is grounded in a fundamental idea — that we can become a high-wage society, a society in which the people who do the work share in the wealth we create.

He also stressed that the labor movement opposes Fast Track and:

We expect those who seek to lead our nation forward to oppose Fast Track. There is no middle ground, and the time for deliberations is drawing to a close.

In the 2016 presidential campaign, “there will be no place to hide for those who aspire to lead America,” he said.

The problems of income inequality and stagnant wages are so clear, so abundant, that only direct, sweeping action to change the rules will put our nation on a fresh path of progress. We are hungry for a path to a prosperous 21st century. And America’s workers know that the first step on that path is raising wages.

But he emphasized that a raising wages agenda is a broad vision that includes earned sick leave, full employment and fair overtime rules for workers. It also includes taxing Wall Street to pay for massive investments in infrastructure and education, so Wall Street serves Main Street, not the other way around and the ability for workers to bargain collectively with employers for good wages and benefits without fear of retaliation.

Any candidate who wants to appeal to workers has to put forth a bold and comprehensive raising wages agenda. They must be committed to investing in a prosperous future for America. They must have an authentic voice and a commitment, from the candidate down through his or her economic team, to see this agenda through to completion.

AFL-CIO Now contributed to this report.

Exit mobile version