At WSLC convention, Trumka and Brown urge continued advocacy to approve labor law reform
(July 22, 2021) — The presidents of the largest labor federations in Washington and the United States on Wednesday delivered hopeful messages to union members in the opening session of the 2021 Convention of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. But both challenged the hundreds of union delegates gathering via Zoom to double down on their advocacy to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, legislation to fix our nation’s broken labor laws and restore the freedom to join together in unions.
“Despite all the challenges that we’ve been through (with the pandemic), we’re standing together and we’re getting stronger,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, the convention’s keynote speaker. “Our calling now is to pass the most transformative labor law reform in a generation. That’s the PRO Act. This landmark, game-changing legislation… will rebalance our economy and strengthen our democracy so that we, the workers, have more power.”
Although Washington has two U.S. senators who support the PRO Act, including its lead sponsors, Trumka urged delegates to thank them for their support but also to keep fighting hard to get it passed.
“Your own (Senator) Patty Murray wrote the bill,” Trumka said. “Her bill is our bill. And our fight must be her fight. So thank your senators and representatives who are supporting the PRO Act because they are. And more than that, encourage them to urge the few undecided senators to come on board.”
TAKE A STAND — As the national week of action on passing the PRO Act continues, please sign this petition urging senators to support unions, support working people, and to keep fighting for passage of the PRO Act!
On Wednesday, President Trumka also congratulated Washington state on its high COVID-19 vaccination rates, on leading the nation in approving overtime pay for farm workers, on creating a capital gains tax that requires the wealthy in this state to pay their share for essential public services, and on doing the opposite of what Republican-controlled state governments are doing across the country, by removing barriers to voting and making it easier to cast ballots.
(Watch Trumka’s full address here starting at 44:56.)
“The theme of our convention this year is ‘Our Time Now’,” said WSLC President Larry Brown in his opening address Wednesday. “As our nation recovers from the pandemic and the economic downturn caused by the disease, it is Our Time Now to build back better our union future… That is why the PRO Act is labor’s top priority from now until we see it passed. The PRO Act is the most important piece of labor law reform since the passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935.”
(Watch Brown’s address here starting at 24:27.)
The PRO Act will:
● Empower workers to exercise our freedom to organize and bargain.
● Ensure that workers can reach a first contract quickly after a union is recognized.
● End employers’ practice of punishing striking workers by hiring permanent replacements. Speaking up for labor rights is within every worker’s rights—and workers shouldn’t lose our jobs for it.
● Hold corporations accountable by strengthening the National Labor Relations Board and allowing it to penalize employers who retaliate against working people in support of the union or collective bargaining.
● Repeal “right to work” laws — divisive and racist laws created during the Jim Crow era — that lead to lower wages, fewer benefits and more dangerous workplaces.
● Create pathways for workers to form unions, without fear, in newer industries like Big Tech.
Also on Wednesday, WSLC convention delegates heard a panel of union leaders and organizers describe some labor victories and campaigns in Washington state over the past year. (Watch the panel here at 58:35.) Presenters included:
● Andrea Torres, a member/organizer with UNITE HERE 8, on campaigning for Biden/Harris in Arizona and the union’s COBRA Campaign;
● Peter Kuel, President of the Drivers Union (Teamsters 117), discussing the union’s major victories in the city of Seattle;
● Rigo Valdez, Coordinator of the President’s Organizing Initiative at MLK Labor, speaking about the Seattle Strategic Organizing Center;
● Sierra Turner, a UFCW 367 member and WSLC Union Summer Intern, describing various hazard-pay victories; and
● Brenda Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network, on the creation of the Washington Immigrant Relief Fund.
The WSLC 2021 Convention continues Thursday with another plenary session from 5 to 6:30 p.m.and will once again be broadcast via Facebook Live at the WSLC’s page @WAaflcio. WSLC Secretary Treasurer April Sims will welcome Nashville CLC President Vonda McDaniel, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, and King County Executive Dow Constantine. Plus, there will be more workshops that are open to all members of WSLC-affiliated unions, whether they are convention delegates or not.
On Friday, convention business begins at 9 a.m. and is restricted to registered and credentialed delegates. (If you are a delegates, make sure you are registered.) The body will consider resolutions that are a key part not just of the WSLC Convention, but of the organization itself. It is through the debate and passage of these resolutions that WSLC positions and policies are established. (See the resolutions approved in 2020 for examples.)
Each year at convention, the WSLC also presents awards recognizing the accomplishments of specific union organizations and individual union members. They are the Bruce Brennan Award for furthering the cause of apprenticeship, education and training; the Elsie Schrader Award for the advancement of women in leadership roles and/or for activism on behalf of women within the labor movement; and the Mother Jones award to the individual and organization that best exemplify the tradition of Mary “Mother” Jones’ immortal statement, “Mourn for the dead, but fight like hell for the living!” The WSLC’s top executive officer will also present President’s Awards.