OPINION: Being a Democrat isn’t a qualification for Labor’s endorsement


‘If you want our support, show us that you’re unambiguously pro-worker and pro-union’

President, AFL-CIO

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Excerpts from President Trumka’s remarks before the Iowa Federation of Labor’s annual convention Aug. 21.)

There’s something special about your state, especially during primary season. There are 166 days left before the Iowa caucuses, and we’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then.

Today you will be hearing from nearly every major candidate seeking the Democratic nomination. That’s fantastic. The path to the nomination—and the White House—runs through the Labor Movement. Our member-to-member political program is unrivaled. No one has our infrastructure, resources and worker power.

And we are ready to unleash a grassroots army to elect the right candidate. But we need to find that candidate first.

Let me start with a basic point. Being a Democrat is not a qualification for our endorsement, and being a Republican isn’t a disqualifier.

Simply put: It doesn’t matter if there’s a D, R or I next to your name. If you support us, and I mean really support us, we will support you.
But you better come with more than platitudes and a party label.

So as these candidates make their case today and in the days to come, let’s be absolutely clear that our support must be earned. We’re setting the bar high—higher than it’s ever been.

We are demanding from a president the same thing we demand of ourselves: Hard work, integrity, honor, guts, grit and sacrifice.
Put plainly, my message today is this: If you want our endorsement… if you want our vote… if you want our support:

  • Show us that you’re unambiguously pro-worker and pro-union.
  • Tell us about your plan to make it easier to form unions and harder to bust them.
  • Show us that workers are more than a section on your website or a line in your biography.
  • Make growing today’s Labor Movement a top priority.

We need a president who understands:

  • No one should go broke just because they get sick.
  • No one should die on the job because their employer is too cheap.
  • No one should be fired or earn less because of who they are.
  • Everyone should have a voice.
  • Everyone should have a fair shot and a fair shake.
  • And everyone should be able to form a union.

To be clear, 2020 cannot be about personalities. It MUST be about workers.

That means talking to us and getting to know us.

It means visiting our worksites and our union halls. It means marching on our picket lines.

It means learning about our hopes and dreams and understanding our concerns. It means being just as pro-union when you’re at the Farm Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce as you are here today.

We’re refusing to accept business as usual. Not when, in some parts of the country, it’s still harder to form a union than climb a mountain.

Not when 40 percent of Americans don’t have $400 in the bank for an emergency.

Not when in the past 30 years, the top 1% has gained $21 trillion in wealth, while the bottom 50 percent has lost $900 billion.

But, if you join us… and fight for us… and walk in our shoes… we will move heaven and earth to elect you.

And together, we can put this country back where it belongs — in the hands of the workers who make it go.

This is our time! This is our moment!

WE are the American Labor Movement, and we will not… WE WILL NOT… be denied!


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