By APRIL SIMS
(Dec. 20, 2019) — By necessity, 2020 is a year of action. Working people across this country are under attack, and we’re energized to fight back. As a movement, we have the skills to capitalize on the enthusiasm and momentum of people all over Washington, and there’s infinite possibility for building power for working people.
The stakes are high. Our national politics continue to be distorted by white supremacy at the highest levels, and heartless policies are harming working people. Our movement is a bulwark against the power of politicians backed by corporations and billionaires that seek to exploit working people. In 2020, we will fight to make sure our voices are heard.
But as we look forward to 2020, I want to take a moment to reflect on the values we’ve set out and foundations we’ve built in 2019.
During the 2019 legislative session, we won major victories for working people, from strengthening prevailing wage standards, passing legislation to protect immigrants’ rights in the workplace, to securing uninterrupted meal and rest breaks for nurses and other frontline hospital workers. A coalition of labor and environmental groups worked to pass the Clean Energy Transformation Act, a first-of-its-kind piece of legislation that will decarbonize Washington’s electricity and require renewable energy projects to meet labor standards to receive state funding, all while requiring utilities across Washington to provide energy assistance to low-income households.
Fundamentally, we understand that our movement — and our communities — are facing an existential threat in climate change. As we move towards the necessary green economy, we are committed to securing family-wage union jobs in these newly created economic sectors. That’s why we passed Resolution #18 at the 2019 Convention of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, reaffirming our commitment to a just and equitable transition towards renewable energy.
We also moved a number of other ambitious resolutions at our 2019 Convention. Resolution #14 calls on the WSLC and our affiliates to offer trainings on immigrant rights, foster leadership of immigrant workers, and for US-born members of our movement to stand with our immigrant siblings. We know that unscrupulous bosses and opportunistic politicians seek to use immigration status to divide working people, but we will not allow our fellow working people to be targeted.
We passed the third in a series of progressive resolutions committing the WSLC and our affiliates to racial justice work. Our movement has a complex, at times fraught, relationship with race, but to allow ourselves to be divided by racism, by a scarcity mentality, is a disservice to our ancestors, ourselves, and our children. We know that sowing racial division is a time-honored tactic of those who seek to break working people’s solidarity, and we are committed to staying united behind the common cause of dignity and fair treatment of all working people.
We’ve committed ourselves to combating discrimination based on gender and sexuality on the job. Resolution #19, calling for an end to gender-based violence in the workplace, Resolution #31 , in support of reproductive freedom and justice, and Resolution #20, in support of gender-neutral language. Women, trans, gender non-conforming, and queer folks are all part of our movement, and the experiences we bring with us are valuable to everyone in the labor movement. Under the current administration, trans people — especially trans women of color — are seeing their existence denigrated, and are facing a high risk of violence. These resolutions call on the WSLC and our affiliates to take concrete steps to support all working people across gender identity and sexuality.
We passed resolutions calling for organizing in the cannabis industry (Resolution #17), and extending the right to collectively bargain to employees of the legislative branch (Resolution #4). We remain committed to fighting for the difference that a union job can make for all working people across Washington. And we passed Resolution #10, in support of OSHA health and safety trainings for construction workers, and Resolution #29, denouncing the current federal administration’s plan for Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs, which would harm working people by failing to set the high standards needed for apprenticeship programs to adequately prepare workers.
In 2020, we’ll continue to fight for the dignity of working people, for policies that work for us, and to elect politicians who share our values. We can this watershed moment to build leadership of working people, and power for our communities.
I hope you’ll join me in taking some time at year’s end to rest and reflect — because in 2020, the marathon continues.
April Sims is Secretary Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, representing the interests of more than 600 union organizations with approximately 550,000 rank-and-file members.