Updated: Jul 11, 2022
This article originally appeared in the Northwest Labor Press I am humbled and honored to serve Oregon workers as your new president of the Oregon AFL-CIO. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your confidence, support, and solidarity as we fight for a fairer and more just economy that lifts up ALL workers.
Tom Chamberlain and Barbara Byrd set the bar high for our movement, ensuring the Oregon AFL-CIO was in a strong position to help lead the fights for workers of the future and support the fights of our affiliate unions and their members as well. They did that throughout their careers with grit, determination, and an unwavering commitment to justice. Oregon workers are far better off thanks to their leadership, and I am eternally grateful.
It’s hard for me to think of a time in my career that is more exciting to be a part of the union movement. Despite the endless challenges facing working people within the rigged economic system we are all fighting, the opportunities for building working-class power and solidarity are also endless. Just take a moment and look around at the breadth of collective action we’re seeing and, more importantly, the results.
Look at the over 20,000 retail workers and members of UFCW Local 555 who put it all on the line for fairness, dignity, and respect … and won. They not only won a fair settlement that reflects the hard work and value they bring to their employers, but they also won on addressing the gender pay gap that has been increasingly prevalent in their industry.
Look at the nearly 7,000 workers at Oregon Health and Science University, who mobilized thousands of allies and community members in their fight for a fair and equitable contract … and won. These members of AFSCME Local 328 have helped make OHSU the incredible institution that it is, and their settlement ensures their hard and important work is valued.
Look at the thousands of university workers and Kaiser Permanente workers who all demanded respect and dignity in their contracts … and won.
Look through your newsfeed and you’ll see examples of workers in every corner of our country and in every sector of our nation’s economy — from General Motors plants to hotel chains to Mack Truck factories, workers who are fed up and doing something about it.
If pushed to the brink, these workers are willing to strike. The mainstream media would have you believe that workers carelessly vote to strike and do so with reckless abandon. However, workers on a UAW picket line are receiving just $275 per week while the strike lasts. That doesn’t cut it. It doesn’t pay the bills, yet they are holding strong and fighting for something larger than themselves.
Our movement is one of the working class, a bold and inclusive movement that fights for any worker, no matter who they love or where they were born, and we are winning. It gives me so much hope for the future of our united workers’ movement.
Keep fighting! See you in the streets.