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Highlights from Day One of the AFL-CIO Convention
Today, more than 1,200 union delegates and convention attendees joined together in St. Louis for the first day of the AFL-CIO 2017 Convention. Here are some of the key moments from the AFL-CIO Convention in St. Louis.
The convention delegates unanimously re-elected Richard Trumka (Mine Workers) as president, Liz Shuler (Electrical Workers) as secretary-treasurer and Tefere Gebre (United Food and Commercial Workers) as executive vice president of the AFL-CIO. In addition, delegates elected 55 vice presidents who will serve as the Executive Council for a four-year term.
In his acceptance speech, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre said:
Sisters and brothers, these are tough times.
For our country. For our movement. For our communities.
Between black and white. Between immigrant and native-born. But even in the face of these challenges, I have hope.
Hope of a brighter day. Hope of a stronger tomorrow. Hope of an America with liberty and justice for all. Sisters and brothers, this is a job for the labor movement!
We can bring our country together!
I pledge to do my part. To lead with my heart. To never stop fighting.
In her acceptance speech, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler said:
How do we fight for good jobs when they are increasingly automated or distorted as the nation’s social compact is under relentless attack?
We have reached a tipping point—just focusing on protecting what we have is far more dangerous than taking risks.
When automation threatens millions of jobs in the not-too-distant future...we can’t afford to be cautious.
When millions of people use their power online to oust CEOs and advocate for change, we need to harness that activism and use it to build a massive movement of working people.
Together we can build the support, leadership and encouragement for more unions to get in the game, experiment and find new strategies for success.
And in his acceptance speech, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:
I am proud to stand before you and tell you we’re going to go forward toward a better day for all working people.
Our opponents are tough. They’re well-heeled and ruthless. But their deep pockets can’t overcome our deep passion for a fairer and more just nation. I say, bring it on!
America is hungry for change. Change doesn’t just happen—we will make it happen the same way our predecessors stared down the barrel of a harsh economic and political reality—and even guns—to form the labor movement.
A new day. A better day. For you, and me. Our children and grandchildren.
We’ll join together. We’ll fight together. We’ll win together, brothers and sisters, because we do the work. This is our country, and it’s high time that we took it back!
During the convention, the delegates approved the following resolutions:
Resolution 7: Reviving Our Communities and Putting Millions to Work Rebuilding the Country: "The labor movement expects Congress to work with the administration to achieve the promises President Trump made in 2016 for a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. Yet we know that $1 trillion is not enough to fund existing needs, much less to invest in new infrastructure. The labor movement will fight for an infrastructure program that goes beyond this down payment and comprehensively invests in our nation’s future."
Resolution 10: Encouraging Union Members to Run for Public Office: "With an urgent need to expand these efforts, we hereby resolve to strengthen the independent political voice for labor in local government by identifying and recruiting new candidates for local office, ensuring the candidates we recruit and endorse reflect the diversity of our labor movement. These labor candidates will champion pro-labor values and campaign aggressively and in partnership with labor."
Resolution 16: Inclusion and Equity: Ensuring Equity and Inclusion Internally and Externally: "Politicians and corporations have used race and ethnicity, cultural differences and geography to divide us for decades. It is simple: If we are fighting each other, then we are not fighting together for better jobs, better schools, more affordable health care, good housing, strong communities and a more secure retirement for all. Eradicating bigotry is not just the moral thing to do—it is the only way we will win these things for all working families and leave a better future for our children."
Resolution 24: Fighting Together for Workers in Manufacturing: "To win these fights, raise wages and improve diversity in manufacturing, we must activate workers to fight for political demands and to organize. We must insist on inclusion and solidarity, and reject exclusion and racism. The alternative is continued decline and the growth of a political narrative on manufacturing that is contrary to our values and our interests."
Resolution 29: Resolution Supporting 100 Percent Buy American for Defense Procurement: "To fight for American jobs and American security, we will: vigorously support eliminating all loopholes to Buy American laws, and demand that all goods purchased for defense procurement are manufactured in the United States; strengthen and expand measures that apply to defense procurement and support our defense industrial base, including Buy American, the Defense Production Act, the Jones Act, the Specialty Metals Clause and the Berry Amendment; and support measures to rectify U.S. dependence on any foreign-sourced critical military supplies and systems, including government support for establishing U.S. production capacity."
Resolution 56: The Humanitarian Crisis in Puerto Rico and the Need for Immediate Federal Action: "Therefore, Be It Resolved, that the AFL-CIO Convention commends the heroic and courageous efforts of the AFL-CIO union members and volunteers who participated in the multi-union emergency relief mission; and Resolved, that the AFL-CIO expresses solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the Puerto Rico Federation of Labor and the Virgin Islands Central Labor Council in their efforts to rebuild and protect all their residents following the disaster."
Speaking at the AFL-CIO's Diversity and Inclusion Pre-Conference, Petee Talley said:
I am honored to present the report on the AFL-CIO's "All of Us or None of Us" Convention Pre-Conference held yesterday, where over 400 participants came to learn, share and be inspired.
Earlier this morning, faith leaders representing many denominations lifted up the universal teachings of love, tolerance and freedom.
There is no one in this room who doesn't know we are in a moment of crisis—not just in our movement, but in too many of our communities.
We can either retreat to our individual corners or we can come together to develop a road map that leads to an Economy that Works for All of Us.
In preparing for this year's pre-conference, [St. Louis] central labor council President Pat White and [Missouri] state federation President Mike Louis shared with us the relationships they've been cultivating with many of their community allies in Saint Louis.
They've been working together to build a better community where workers' rights are protected, where voters are free to participate in a fair democracy, and where every job is a good job.
The theme of this convention is perfectly timed. We are about joining together in union. We are about fighting together, and we are about WINNING together.
Read more about today's convention:
We Are the American Labor Movement, and We Will Not Be Denied: "Brothers and sisters, St. Louis is a historical gateway to the American frontier, in many ways to the American Dream—many unionists trace their roots to St. Louis and the Show-Me State. It will be our entrance to a new vision of prosperity, not a cookie-cutter America dream of white picket fences, but a dream shaped by each of us, a dream in which no one gets left behind."
Democracy Is Not Just Nice, but Necessary: "At the AFL-CIO Convention’s Global Labor Symposium, the last panel of the day proved to be the most exciting. The topic was Unions at the Forefront of Democracy. After an inspiring introduction by Victor Baez, who leads the Trade Union Confederation of Americas, the entire symposium went outside to join a rally led by Missouri state Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. to support Black Lives Matter."
USA Hosts Community Fishing Day, Dedicates Willmore Park Piers: "Youth, veterans and seniors got to wet their lines at a fishing event at Willmore Park in St. Louis, Missouri, today, to celebrate the completion of two fishing piers restored by union volunteers. The event was hosted by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) in conjunction with the AFL-CIO 28th Constitutional Convention."
In Missouri, Together We Win: "We would like to welcome the AFL-CIO Convention to our beautiful city. A city built by the hands of the labor movement. The world-famous Gateway Arch was built with 100% union labor in the early 1960s. Busch Stadium, the home of the 11-time world champion St. Louis Cardinals, was built by union men and women. The convention center, where we bring union members from every corner of the United States, was built by our brothers and sisters. St. Louis was not only built by union hands, but was once the shoe capital of the world, with union-made shoes made at Brown Shoe Co. Our city also was home to McDonnell Douglas, where machinists sent men to space. Not to mention the birthplace of the Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Bricklayers (BAC). St. Louis is a union town, which makes it the perfect place to host this year’s AFL-CIO Convention."
Running for Office: Have You Ever Thought About It?: "I have spent the better part of the past decade asking elected leaders to vote the right way. Asking them to stand with us—as union workers, retirees, women, people of color and immigrants. I have done this by being in the streets, at rallies and protests, asking them to join us on the strike lines, and lobbying them in congressional offices, in our state legislature and in city halls."
Highlights from the AFL-CIO 2017 Diversity Pre-Conference and the Global Labor Symposium: "As part of its quadrennial convention, the AFL-CIO is bringing together working families and activists to discuss diversity and inclusion and a separate meeting to discuss global labor issues. Here are some key tweets from the 'All of Us or None of Us: Join, Fight and Win Together Pre-Conference' and 'Global Labor Symposium.'"
Using Government Procurement to Bring Good Jobs Back to the U.S.: "I am pleased to have the opportunity to share SMART's work on Jobs to Move America and to talk about how we have used public procurement—or government purchasing—to re-shore good American manufacturing jobs."
Brazil Undermines Labor Laws and Puts Women Workers at Great Risk: "Brazil's comprehensive labor laws have long provided a strong institutional framework for unions to defend workers' rights. Changes pushed through Congress this July by Brazil's un-elected president and a Congress compromised by corruption charges have greatly undermined the labor laws and will drastically change the legal context in which Brazil's unions work."
These videos showed the breadth and diversity of the labor movement and were shown during the plenary session. Here's what you missed:
We Are the American Labor Movement, and We Will Not Be Denied
Here are key excerpts from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka's opening remarks from the 2017 AFL-CIO Convention:
Brothers and sisters, St. Louis is a historical gateway to the American frontier, in many ways to the American Dream—many unionists trace their roots to St. Louis and the Show Me state.
It will be our entrance to a new vision of prosperity, not a cookie-cutter America dream of white picket fences but a dream shaped by each of us, a dream in which no one gets left behind.
We gather together as America and the world hunger for solidarity. We need it like we need air. We need it like we need each other. We need it like we need love. Yet fear, hatred, combined with a rigged economy and political system, stand in our way.
People are afraid we can’t get what we need, afraid that there isn’t enough or that it can’t be done. And as scared people sometimes do, some people hate those who seem needier than they are. This isn’t new. This is perhaps the central conflict that has dogged America for generations, divided or united. It’s a lesson we must learn again and again.
You see, we stand together, as diverse as America in every way, and united by our shared brotherhood and sisterhood in our labor movement, which is built entirely on togetherness. We do it because it’s right. We do it because it works. We do it because our humanity, our belief in leaving no one behind, and our embrace of the idea that our diversity is what makes us strong, binds us.
It’s no coincidence that America was founded on that same idea, unity works. Unionism is American. It is as Patriotic as the flag and the statue of liberty.
So are we. We are America. We are unionism. We represent 12.5 million women and men who have good jobs, who support their union, who need a labor movement, today, that can fight, win and grow, and be positioned to grow and thrive for years to come.
That’s our job at this convention, to represent our members while positioning our unions and our movement to grow, to give millions more the freedom to come together and bargain for good jobs and fairness.
At this convention in St. Louis, we will chart the path toward a thriving movement.
You will notice an absence here. There are almost no politicians. That’s because this is a time for conversations with each other. Us. The people in this room.
We’re going to talk about political independence, voting rights and right to work. We’re going to talk about launching a renaissance to rebuild our infrastructure and revive manufacturing. We’re going to talk about diversity and inclusion. We’re going to talk about reforming our movement to ensure it remains a force no matter what changes arise in our economy—from robots to new business models. We’re going to talk about boosting the power of collective bargaining, growing our unions in the growth industries and connecting with new workers who want to embrace a day when every worker, every single worker in America, has the freedom to negotiate with his or her employer for a better life.
These are not easy conversations. Yet we will have them, and we’ll have them here.
There’s something radical about coming together, whether we’re here in this convention hall or out in the street on a picket line or at a march. I’ve felt it hundreds of times over my lifetime, and it never gets old.
I’m talking about how getting together can change you. You find yourself talking to people you never talked to before. You feel something, more unified, and more powerful, when you come into the same space with like-minded people who share your values and your passion and vision. How strong are our shared values?
Unity is a choice. As a labor movement, every day we make that choice. Sometimes we get it wrong, and it causes deep and lasting pain. Yet sometimes we get it right, and it’s so powerful. That’s what we want to focus on for the next four days. We want to make the right choice. We want unity.
I’ll tell you a quick story.
Not far from where we meet today, in southern Illinois to the east of us, a group of striking white coal miners, hungry and afraid, fired shots into a train of black replacement workers who had no idea the situation they had been brought into.
A handful of men, including the great United Mine Worker organizer and UMWA executive council member Richard L. Davis organized across racial lines in that environment. Davis did it. He was black, and he helped form the UMWA at our founding convention in 1890. In the face of fear, death and unspeakable sorrow, he gave us a model of solidarity that we need today.
Our shared values brought those unionists together then, and our values can and will unite us again.
Our labor movement won’t merely respond to the attacks and survive, brothers and sisters. We will thrive.
Because we’re the ones who wake America up every single morning. We tuck her into bed at night. We build the cars, planes and infrastructure, lift the loads, drive the buses and ship the goods, pour the molds, connect our cities and the world. We teach, heal and make. We package, print and bake. From the East Coast to the West Coast, north, south and everywhere in between. We make America strong. We don’t duck and run. We don’t run and hide. We are the American labor movement, and we will not be denied!
Democracy is Not Just Nice, But Necessary
At the AFL-CIO Convention’s Global Labor Symposium, the last panel of the day proved to be the most exciting. The topic was Unions at the Forefront of Democracy. After an inspiring introduction by Victor Baez, who leads the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas, the entire symposium went outside to join a rally led by Missouri State Rep. Bruce Franks, Jr. to support Black Lives Matter.
After the rally, Franks addressed the gathering, making clear that the struggle for justice, dignity and respect is universal. The audience grew more engaged as they heard about worker repression and denials of free speech in Brazil, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, and Iraq. Working people at the forefront of challenging authoritarian and repressive regimes have told stories of workers who risked job loss, arrests, and violence to protect and defend the rights of all citizens to stand up and fight back.
The bottom line was that workers can’t achieve gains by negotiating with employers if we can’t also speak out in protest; join the meetings, events and organizations of our choosing; and have the freedom to express our ideas in print and online. In other words, unions aren’t just workplace organizations-we are essential to defending democratic values.
USA Hosts Community Fishing Day, Dedicates Willmore Park Piers
Youth, veterans and seniors got to wet their lines at a fishing event at Willmore Park in St. Louis, Missouri, today, to celebrate the completion of two fishing piers restored by union volunteers.
The event was hosted by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) in conjunction with the AFL-CIO 28th Constitutional Convention.
The USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program brought together union volunteers from Missouri AFL-CIO, St. Louis Labor Council, St. Louis Building and Construction Trades, St. Louis Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council, EMLDC Laborers AGC Training Center, Iron Workers Local 396 and Painters and Allied Trades DC 58 to rebuild one fishing pier and install and paint a railing on another at Willmore Park to make them safe for visitors. The project was sponsored by PNC Capital Advisors and Aetna.
“St. Louis has a strong urban fishing heritage, and parks are an important part of our city’s culture,” said Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis. “The project at Willmore Park united volunteers from many union trades for the common purpose of improving our community and public fishing access for all to enjoy for generations to come.”
A group of nearly 150 gathered to celebrate the new pier with speeches and a commemorative plaque before enjoying a free lunch. Immediately after lunch, a group of youth, veterans and seniors received hands-on fishing instruction and assistance provided by USA volunteers. All participants received a free fishing rod, reel and tackle courtesy of Pure Fishing.
“America’s urban parks are a true treasure providing large populations living within city limits access to the great outdoors. However, many of these parks have infrastructure that is deteriorating, and city budgets that simply can’t provide the necessary maintenance,” said USA CEO & Executive Director Scott Vance. “The USA has the most powerful tool available to help preserve our urban parks and outdoor heritage—skilled union members willing to give their time, expertise and passion to the cause. The Willmore Park project and community fishing day is true testament to our union volunteers, the power of Labor and their strong desire to give back more to their community than they receive.”
In addition to the companies and unions that helped restore the fishing piers, the following organizations helped make the fishing event possible: Vandaventer Place Retirement Center, Lively Stone Church of St. Louis, Missouri Veteran’s Home of St. Louis, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 58, Communications Workers of America Local 6300 and national and local AFL-CIO members.
In Missouri, Together We Win
We would like to welcome the AFL-CIO Convention to our beautiful city. A city built by the hands of the labor movement. The world-famous Gateway Arch was built with 100% union labor in the early 1960s. Busch Stadium, the home of the 11-time world champion St. Louis Cardinals, was built by union men and women. The convention center, where we bring union members from every corner of the United States, was built by our brothers and sisters. St. Louis was not only built by union hands, but was once the shoe capital of the world, with union-made shoes made at Brown Shoe Co. Our city also was home to McDonnell Douglas, where machinists sent men to space. Not to mention the birthplace of the Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Bricklayers (BAC). St. Louis is a union town, which makes it the perfect place to host this year’s AFL-CIO Convention.
As you may know, Missouri has had its fair share of struggles, ranging from social unrest to the passage of union-busting laws. From previous unrest to the current situation, the labor movement has remained focused on building a stronger, more unified community. The labor movement will not stop fighting for equality for every single family. That is what the labor movement has always been about, and we are not about to stop now. Instead of fighting for working families, by passing policies that build a stronger community, politicians are working against us.
This past legislative session, Missouri politicians signed the “right to work” bill into law. However, this assault on ordinary working Missourians has not deterred us. Instead, Missourians have banded together to fight back. Over the course of several months, in the severe cold to the sweltering heat, working people collected signatures to put right to work on the ballot. By law, we needed 100,126 signatures in six of our eight congressional districts. But the working people of Missouri exceeded all expectations and turned in 310,567 signatures and qualified in all eight congressional districts. Right to work will be on the ballot in November 2018. It is going to be a fight for our very livelihood. With your help, we will defeat this disastrous anti-worker law that hurts all Missourians.
The Missouri AFL-CIO has never backed down. We are under attack by politicians and their billionaire buddies. Whether it be project labor agreements, paycheck deception, prevailing wage, lowering the minimum wage, right to work or the long list of anti-worker laws—we are the last line of defense for the middle class. Every one of us has a duty to fight for the middle class, who built this country. We are the leaders who will shape the future for our children and grandchildren. It is time to unite. Together we win.
Running for Office: Have You Ever Thought About It?
I have spent the better part of the past decade asking elected leaders to vote the right way. Asking them to stand with us—as union workers, retirees, women, people of color and immigrants. I have done this by being in the streets, at rallies and protests, asking them to join us on the strike lines, and lobbying them in congressional offices, in our state legislature and in city halls.
Too often, I’d hear, “Let me think about it.”
After nearly a decade of hearing those words, I was determined to get more of us who have the lived experience of workers, women, people of color and immigrants into office. Working with the AFL-CIO, I ran the Path to Power program in Washington state that has helped train nearly 100 people to run for office. Half this year’s class is now on the ballot, and most candidates are slated to win. That’s what building power looks like. That’s what it looks like to make sure our voice is heard.
While training others to run, I would constantly hear: “Why aren’t you running? Have you ever thought about it?” I had always said no. Whether being encouraged by my own parents early on, or from our state’s speaker of the House over the years, I had always said no.
This year felt different. Donald Trump’s triumph last November brought everything into focus: everyone we have been working to protect and lift up is at risk: workers, women, people of color, immigrants, unions, the LGBTQIA community, our elders and kiddos.
We have all been pushed out of our comfort zone, to both resist and persist for our community. We’ve done this by being in the streets almost every weekend since the election, marching for women, workers and human rights. We’ve done this by being in airports demonstrating against the Muslim travel ban. And we’ve have done this by running for office, given the record numbers of women and people of color now on the ballot.
Local government now must be the first line of offence and the last line of defense when it comes to protect workers and residents. This year, I said yes.
I am running for Seattle City Council to represent our city at large. I am a third-generation Mexican American, Chicana, woman, renter, fierce advocate for health care and leader in the labor movement. Now, instead of asking someone else to vote the right way, I am hoping to bring my lived experience and progressive values into the office.
At 37 years old, I am a proud Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU) Local 8 member. As the political director of the Washington State Labor Council, I proudly advocate on behalf of the half a million affiliated working people in our state. I have spent my whole life organizing to improve the health, well-being, economic justice and opportunity for vulnerable communities and working families. I have walked the halls of power fighting for health care for all children, reproductive health services, equal pay for women, and helped successfully lead and pass the minimum wage and paid sick days initiative for all Washington workers.
As union members, we know the importance of pushing for change from both the inside of the halls of power and from the outside with our bullhorns, our bodies and our community. It’s time for us—working people, union members, women, people of color, young people, LGBTQIA folks, immigrants—to say yes.
I think you should run for office. Why not you? Who better to stand up and fight for workplace protections and living wage jobs than you? Who better to represent working people than someone from the labor movement? Who better to talk about the importance of a union, worker safety and retirement security?
To our sisters in the labor movement, as women it takes us on average seven times to be asked to run for office before we even think about the possibility. Have you ever thought about it?
We are at a critical time in our country’s history. A fresh wave of leaders is rising and running for office. I am one of them. Our place as union members is among them. So to all workers across our movement, let me ask you just one more time (and hope this is the seventh time some of you have been asked), have you ever thought about running for office?
Join me. I think you should run. Let’s bring our progressive values into the halls of power to stand up for our communities, the labor movement and working families.
Highlights from the AFL-CIO 2017 Diversity Pre-Conference and the Global Labor Symposium
As part of its quadrennial convention, AFL-CIO is bringing together working families and activists to discuss diversity and inclusion and a separate meeting to discuss global labor issues. Here are some key Tweets from the "All of Us or None of Us: Join, Fight and Win Together Pre-Conference" and "Global Labor Symposium."
— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) October 21, 2017
— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) October 21, 2017
Glenn Kelly, youngest Exec. Council member of Int'l Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers "we have to have a seat at the table to change" #AllofUsorNoneofUs — William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) October 21, 2017
Using Government Procurement to Bring Good Jobs Back to the U.S.
Marc Norberg is the assistant to the general president of International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART). He gave these remarks at the AFL-CIO Convention in St. Louis today.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to share SMART's work on Jobs to Move America and to talk about how we have used public procurement—or government purchasing—to re-shore good American manufacturing jobs.
Jobs to Move America began as a national initiative to ensure that the billions of tax dollars spent on the purchase of buses and trains for our public transit systems results in the creation of family-sustaining, manufacturing jobs in the United States.
Historically, manufacturing has been a key pathway for Americans without a college education to enter into the middle class. Unfortunately, one of the last American railcar manufacturers—the Pullman Company—shuttered more than 35 years ago. Since that time, all of the major companies winning contracts to build trains for our public transit systems have been multi-national firms from around the world—German, French, Canadian, Japanese, Korean and, more recently, Chinese.
Jobs to Move America started back in 2010—at a time when the country was still struggling to recover from the Great Recession. Despite the fact that millions of Americans were unemployed, nearly all of the trains being purchased for our cities were being designed and engineered outside of the United States. Most of the high-value, high-skilled, highly paid manufacturing jobs for our trains also were being sent overseas. It was unthinkable. Billions of our tax dollars were bypassing U.S. workers.
For too long, the purchase of public goods in this country has been primarily driven by private, for-profit interest. Short-term cost savings and privatization are prioritized over long-term economic growth. Public agencies at the federal, state and local level largely have been reliant upon a race-to-the-bottom procurement framework, which has contributed to the dismantling of American manufacturing. Over the past several decades, we have lost millions of production jobs.
We needed a program for rebuilding our country’s middle class. We needed a global strategy that could leverage our taxpayer dollars to bring back American manufacturing, to get multi-national firms sending work overseas to bring more production state side and create more and better jobs for our communities.
We also needed a strategy to level the playing field for high road, union companies doing the right thing, that have a deep American footprint, and are investing in quality, family-sustaining jobs.
Jobs to Move America developed the U.S. Employment Plan, which creates a competition upwards among companies vying for million- and billion-dollar transit projects in the United States. During the evaluation of bids submitted by companies in a competitive public procurement, manufacturers are scored based on the robustness of their U.S. jobs programs. Train builders can earn higher marks for committing to paying their workers family-sustaining wages, good benefits and for investments in things like union apprenticeship and jobs pipelines for low-income communities.
Over four years ago, Jobs to Move America partnered with the Chicago Federation of Labor to implement the U.S. Employment Plan policy on the city of Chicago’s $2 billion investment in new "El" train cars. I’m proud to share that as a result of this collaboration, in 2016, my union, SMART, along with the Electrical Workers (IBEW), and the Jobs to Move America coalition signed the first of its kind, landmark community benefits agreement with Chinese rail builder CRRC.
This past spring, we broke ground on CRRC’s new $100 million train factory in Chicago’s South Side. Railcar manufacturing is coming back to Chicago for the first time in more than 35 years, since the closing of the Pullman factory. CRRC’s factory is currently being built and constructed union. Workers on the assembly line will be wall-to-wall union. And people from the surrounding community will have priority hiring.
As CRRC looks to win new contracts in the U.S. and expands its domestic presence, it is key that we build off our local Chicago partnership to reach a national understanding. To ensure that the Chicago facility remains a permanent flagship and that all new CRRC investments and facilities are covered by the same high road standards that we achieved in Chicago—it is key that our union develop new strategies to reflect an increasingly globalized world.
We know that China is investing billions in the U.S. each year and likely will only be increasing their investment levels. We know that in an increasingly globalized economy, building cooperative relationships with a rising power like China is imperative to our union’s long-term success. We must reach mutual understanding and shared expectations.
Through SMART's work in Beijing with the IBEW, AFL-CIO, Jobs to Move America and All-China Federation of Trade Unions, we believe our Chicago partnership with CRRC can be a model for Sino-American relations.
At SMART, we understand that our union’s work can no longer be limited to a traditional organizing model or to a domestic strategy. We must adapt. We must be able to develop nimble and innovative, global strategies to address the new organizing context and grow the power of our great American labor movement.
Brazil Undermines Labor Laws and Puts Women Workers at Great Risk
Paloma dos Santos, president of the Union of the Cleaning Services Workers of Santos City and Region (Sindilimpeza-Sindicato dos trabalhadores em asseio e conservação da baixada santista) from Brazil, is at the AFL-CIO 2017 Convention this week and is part of the Brazil-Kenya women's delegation.
Brazil's comprehensive labor laws have long provided a strong institutional framework for unions to defend workers' rights. Changes pushed through Congress this July by Brazil's un-elected president and a Congress compromised by corruption charges have greatly undermined the labor laws and will drastically change the legal context in which Brazil's unions work.
By some accounts, this drastic overhauling of Brazilian labor law places the country on a path toward something more similar to the U.S. reality, weakening collective bargaining and unions' financial stability. While the comprehensive labor law was flawed, these changes cannot be called reforms.
They are expected to deeply affect women, people of color and many workers who were long excluded from these protections.
We are living moments of great loss, at work and in life.
In the case of Assaio e Conservação, women are the ones who are being hit the hardest because of outsourcing and the new labor reform, approved in the Brazilian National Congress, that takes countless workers' rights, a decision of total regression.
One of the consequences of changing these labor laws is that pregnant women will be working in unhealthy areas, which was previously against the law.
Another important issue that we work on daily is the issue of gender violence. Many of our women workers suffer violence at home and sometimes cannot return to work because they are hurt and embarrassed. Another situation we deal with is the issue of rape, which most of the time happens to women on their way to work.
We try to raise the awareness of these workers in the best possible way, through pamphlets and referrals to specific guidelines. The fight for women's rights, equality and parity at work is every day, every hour.
Tennessee SMART Members Donate Time for Veteran
On Sept. 21, International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 5 was notified that a local Chattanooga, Tennessee, veteran and his family had been left with an exposed metal roof by a shoddy local nonunion contractor.
Army veteran Kerry Hinton had paid this contractor to demo the existing asphalt shingled roof and replace it with sheet metal. During this process, the owner/operator of the nonunion firm was arrested and reportedly put in jail, leaving Kerry along with his wife and children with a mess on their hands.
Volunteers from SMART Sheet Metal Local 5, through the SMART ARMY, along with assistance from Chase Plumbing and Mechanical went to work donating time and materials to help this family in need.
Special thanks to brothers Jacob Wheeler, George Painter, Jordan Burgin, Jason Andrews, John Kirk and Jeff Burgin who worked on the project.
This post originally appeared at SMART.