By ED FINKELSTEIN
The “new” AFL-CIO was previewed to the national press as a movement that’s more united than ever and one more focused on the needs of workers as defined by the workers themselves in a press conference Oct. 22 prior to the kickoff of the AFL-CIO’s 28th Annual Constitutional Convention held in St. Louis Oct. 19-25.
That new direction is based on providing workers with hard facts, the truth, about the Trump Administration’s promises and their delivery on those promises.
“Give workers the facts and they will make the right decision,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka stressed, the enthusiasm for the national union’s new direction palpable. “We know if you give workers a vision, that a unified approach of all workers, union and non-union alike will be positive for them and their families, they will choose the union,” he stressed.
Pointing out that millennials – those born in the 1980s, ’90s and early 2000s – believe by a 61 percent margin that unions are important, and that the public’s overall acceptance of labor unions is now at 61 percent, Trumka said “collectivism is on the rise!”
However, Trumka expressed concern with a recent study by Harvard University that found only 30 percent of millennials “believe it’s good to live in a democracy, while 24 percent believe it’s not.”
“This is the first generation to grow up under global rules of the economy,” seeing their parents lose jobs and income, Trumka said. “They equate democracy and capitalism with low wages and insecurity,” he said, which is why the effort to protect workers must be global.
WORKERS BILL OF RIGHTS
The AFL-CIO’s renewed efforts will be built on a Workers Bill of Rights based on extensive talks with union and non-union workers across the country about what they need. It will be introduced at the end of the convention.
The Labor Movement’s new direction is a going to be a grassroots program “based on what workers have told us they need and want,” Trumka said.
“Those who support that bill of rights will get our support,” he said. “Those that don’t – we’re sorry.”
Noting that President Trump’s promises in the campaign have not squared with what he has done and proposed as president, Trumka said, “Workers have been left in the wash.”
FOCUS ON ORGANIZING
“The focus of our movement will be on organizing,” AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre said. “We will provide a voice for everyone who goes to work. We will need a global solidarity because the other side doesn’t care where workers are when they are laid off.”
“The future of our movement depends on how Organized Labor adapts to the changes in our economy, what’s going on locally, nationally and globally,” Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler said. “What’s work going to look like in 10 years? The Labor Movement is as relevant and as vibrant a voice in that debate as ever before.”
Pointing out that the Labor Movement is the largest single group in America composed of women (6.5 million members) and workers of color (49 percent of the convention), Shuler said, “We are the movement of working people, the only voice of working people, the only group that can voice the concerns of all workers.”
Reports from the Convention
The Labor Tribune’s coverage of the AFL-CIO’s 28th Constitutional Convention in St. Louis will be published in your paper in the coming weeks, including detailed coverage and analysis of resolutions, speeches, interviews with leadership, updates on local and national issues and stories of interest to union members in Missouri and Illinois. A great deal of exciting things are happening. We’ll be reporting on them for weeks to come.