The Stand

Trumka inspires at the WSLC Convention

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On Day 1, speakers deliver hopeful message of unity amid nation’s dark times

 

SEATAC (July 26, 2019) — AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka brought hundreds of delegates to their feet Thursday at the 2019 Convention of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO with an inspirational call to action amid dark times in our nation.

“I started in the labor movement 50 years ago,” Trumka said. “And I’ve never been more confident in the power of working people. Something is happening in America right now. You can see it, you can hear it, and God, you can feel it.”

“But even on our brightest day, it’s impossible to ignore the daily atrocities committed in the land that we love,” he added. “Americans are being scapegoated, minimized, dehumanized, and told to go back to the country where they came from… Some say America has lost her way, but I think it’s even worse than that. The forces of greed in our nation, both elected and not, are pulling America apart deliberately and strategically in order to line their own pockets. Today they are laughing all the way to the bank. Donald Trump is a symptom of the problem. He capitalized on anxiety, fear, and divisions that have been sowed by the ruling class since the dawn of time… The cure for that cancer has always been the same one — solidarity, working-class solidarity.”

One of the many calls to action Trumka issued to union delegates was to support the PRO Act, legislation he called “the most important legislation of my lifetime,” which has been introduced in Congress by our own Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA).

“It stands for Protecting the Right to Organize,” he said. “In other words, letting us do our job without interference from anti-union employers or anti-worker politicians… It would make the fight fair again.” (Learn more about the PRO Act here.)

Trumka was the keynote speaker in the opening day of the WSLC Convention, the first hosted by the newly elected WSLC executive officers, President Larry Brown and Secretary Treasurer April Sims.

In his opening address, Brown introduced himself to delegates as a “labor movement guy” who came out of the Boeing Machinists union and said he is “humbled to do the work of representing all the union members, and for that matter, all workers in Washington state.”

Brown acknowledged that last year’s contested election for WSLC President led to a sincere debate about the direction the WSLC should take and how it should prioritize its work. He learned during his campaign that different unions, large and small, had different priorities, but he expressed confidence that all of this important work can get done if we stay unified.

“No matter how your union prioritizes the issues of collective bargaining, organizing and representational activities; work on fighting climate change and pollution; or that of fighting racism, promoting social justice and working for greater equity, when it comes the future of our labor movement we are all in the same boat,” Brown said. “However, this labor movement boat doesn’t need oars, it needs ANDS. In other words, we must find a way to do all of this important work. In Washington, we have a wonderfully capable labor movement and we can do all of this work, if done with unity and common purpose.”

Delegates also heard from Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday who thanked the WSLC and its affiliated unions for everything they do, not only on behalf of their members and all workers in Washington, but also on behalf of the state’s economic well-being.

“If anybody tells you that if you treat working people fairly, if you recognize organizing principles, if you adopt measures to help family-wage growth that it will crater your economy, you send them to me, the governor of the state with the best economy in the United States because of the union movement,” Inslee said.

Also Thursday at the WSLC Convention:

► Teamsters Local 117 President John Scearcy was presented the Power to the People Award, recognizing outstanding political action in the previous year. He accepted the award on behalf of his union, acknowledging that his staff and rank-and-file member activists deserve the credit for their union’s successful efforts to inform union families about the importance of elections and the importance of supporting candidates who support workers.

► State Attorney General Bob Ferguson told delegates that he has been proud to fight on their behalf to promote worker safety at Hanford Nuclear Reservation, to aggressively prosecute employers that commit wage theft, and to fight back in court against many of the harmful policies issued by the Trump administration. Ferguson has filed dozens of lawsuits against the Trump administration and he noted that, although he’s not “keeping score,” in the legal decisions that have come down so faar, it’s been: People of Washington State 21, Trump Administration 0.

► The convention’s theme is “Looking Back. Moving Forward.” and delegates heard two panels of distinguished speakers do just that.

A Solidarity Centennial panel explained what happened 100 years ago with the 1919 Seattle General Strike and Centralia Tragedy, and the events that have been held this year to commemorate those events. The panel featured Jim Gregory of the University of Washington’s Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, Peter Lahmann of the Thurston Lewis Mason Central Labor Council, Conor Casey of the Labor Archives of Washington, and Leonard Smith, Director of Organizing for Teamsters 117.

Later a Social Justice panel described some of the important ways organized labor in Washington state is working with our community allies to protect immigrant rights, to promote a fair and accurate census in 2020, and to help formerly incarcerated folks re-enter the workforce and society. The panelists were Monserrat Padilla of the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network, Heather Villanueva of the Washington Census Alliance, and Tarra Simmons of Civil Survival.

The WSLC convention continues Friday at the SeaTac DoubleTree Hotel and will conclude on Saturday.

 

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