AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka
NH Raising Wages Summit
Image by Matt Murray
“We are going to stand united and defeat the TPP so we can start investing in working men and women again,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka at the Raising Wages Summit in Concord, NH.
The New Hampshire Raising Wages Summit is the second of four planned summits to bring attention to the fact that working families have not seen a real raise in years, if not decades. The minimum wage has been stagnant for far to long, and the median wage in this country continues to fall.
“Raising wages is what we’re all about. It’s good for working families and the nation. And it comes from activism and the collective voice. This agenda is about much more than wages, though. It’s about—the opportunity to work for a better life. It’s a philosophy, a vision, and a plan all rolled into one. It starts with the absolute truth that we should be decently paid for the work we do. No one should make less than the minimum wage, everyone should make a living wage, and collective bargaining should be available for all workers,” said Trumka.
The AFL-CIO chose New Hampshire because we have a very unique opportunity to meet and talk with the next President of the United States. Being the First in the Nation primary state allows us unprecedented access to candidates and the media following them around like lap dogs.
We have a responsibility to put real pressure on these candidates and ask them, “What are you going to do to raise the wages for working families?”
The Raising Wages Summit was not only about raising the minimum wage but for pushing back against policies like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that will harm working families.
“On Thursday, after six long years, the Obama Administration finally released the text of the TPP. To our disappointment but not our surprise, it is a bad deal for workers. It would drive down wages, kill jobs, give corporations special rights, hurt consumers, and jeopardize the public health,” said Trumka.
The fight over the TPP was almost over when labor activist came within three votes of killing the “fast-track authority” in Congress. Now the text of the TPP has been released and Congress must decide to accept or reject it once and for all.
“The release of the TPP text confirmed our worst suspicions—this deal would be a disaster for America. So brothers and sisters, we are going to continue to make our voices heard. We are going to fight like hell against the TPP. And when it comes up for a vote, we are going to kill this bad trade deal once and for all,” Trumka stated.
“We are going to stand united and defeat the TPP so we can start investing in working men and women again,” said Trumka
Below is the full video of President Trumka’s speech and the text as prepared.
Full Remarks by Richard Trumka, as prepared for delivery
Good morning brothers and sisters. It is great to be back in New Hampshire. There is something extra special about coming here during the political season. There is a buzz in the air. Fall, football, and the New Hampshire primary. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Voters in New Hampshire don’t rely on debates or television interviews to get to know the presidential candidates. You interact with them one on one—in town halls and diners and often in your own living room. New Hampshire plays a unique role in choosing our next president. What an awesome responsibility.
So I thought I’d talk today about the state of the labor movement, the role we are playing in this election, and why that role is so important.
In January, the AFL-CIO hosted a national summit to launch an agenda for shared prosperity called Raising Wages.
Raising wages is what we’re all about. It’s good for working families and the nation. And it comes from activism and the collective voice.
This agenda is about much more than wages, though. It’s about—the opportunity to work for a better life. It’s a philosophy, a vision, and a plan all rolled into one. It starts with the absolute truth that we should be decently paid for the work we do. No one should make less than the minimum wage, everyone should make a living wage, and collective bargaining should be available for all workers. But it goes far broader and deeper than that.
Raising wages means trade policies that lift incomes in America and around the world. It means modern labor laws that give everyone who works a real opportunity to bargain for higher wages without fear. It means allowing workers to demand and win paid time off and fair schedules so we can sustain healthy families.
Now those of you who have worked in Washington know that summits and conferences happen all the time. More often than not, after the last speech is given and the lights are turned off, people go back to business as usual. Not this time. Our national summit was a beginning, not an end. We created an agenda—a standard by which all things would be measured. We also scheduled 4 regional summits in the early campaign states. We previously had one in Iowa and will bring our message to Nevada and South Carolina in the coming months.
We knew this time had to be different for two important reasons.
First, labor is under attack like never before. The corporate right-wing and their allies are waging the most sophisticated anti-worker campaign we have ever seen. They are holding down our pay. On purpose. They are coming after us in all 50 states. In city halls and state legislatures. In Congress and even at the Supreme Court.
So we need allies. Allies like Governor Maggie Hassan. The 2014 election was a tough one for working families. But we were proud to come together and re-elect Governor Hassan. Under her leadership, New Hampshire had more economic growth last year than any other state in New England. Governor Hassan understands that we must invest in infrastructure, education, and most of all, working men and women. She pushed through the Paycheck Fairness Act to guarantee women equal pay for equal work. She successfully worked to freeze college tuition for New Hampshire students. She has been a champion of a living wage. And she has stood strong against efforts to pass right to work in New Hampshire.
Governor Hassan also knows that our trade policies should export American products, not American jobs.
That brings me to the second reason we couldn’t settle for the status quo after our national summit: fast track.
The truth is unfair trade deals have ripped apart the fabric of our nation. You know it and I know it. We’ve seen the shuttered factories. We’ve visited the towns that look like they are stuck in the 1970s. We’ve talked to the workers who lost everything, only to be told they should retrain in another field. That’s why we fought so hard against fast track. We were fighting for the future of the American Dream.
The work you did and the solidarity you showed was an inspiration. Your letters, your phone calls, your e-mails, and most of all your energy, helped moved the dial. It was a sight to see.
In the end we came up just a few votes short, but we changed the trade debate forever. The Wall Street and Washington elite thought the Trans-Pacific Partnership was a slam dunk, but we have slowed down the entire process.
On Thursday, after six long years, the Obama Administration finally released the text of the TPP. To our disappointment but not our surprise, it is a bad deal for workers. It would drive down wages, kill jobs, give corporations special rights, hurt consumers, and jeopardize the public health.
The release of the TPP text confirmed our worst suspicions—this deal would be a disaster for America. So brothers and sisters, we are going to continue to make our voices heard. We are going to fight like hell against the TPP. And when it comes up for a vote, we are going to kill this bad trade deal once and for all.
Just as the Raising Wages agenda is about more than wages, the fast track fight was about more than trade.
Fast track was a symbol of an economy out of balance—a set of rules written by and for big corporations.
So the debate raised a fundamental question: do we want to be a nation that values work, community, investment, and productivity?
Or will we continue to reward wealth, profit, monopoly, and inequality?
Brothers and sisters, we may have lost the vote. But we won the debate. We changed the conversation in America. We can raise wages!
We see it in new worker organizing in manufacturing, construction, retail, and fast food.
We see it in 5 million union workers are speaking up together, the biggest year for collective bargaining in American history.
We see it in a recent Gallup poll that shows support for unions at a 7-year high. And we see it in the 2016 presidential campaign.
I don’t know about you but I thought the first Democratic debate was one of the best I have ever seen. Here are just a few of the highlights.
Hillary Clinton came out against the TPP and emphasized the words “raising wages.”
Bernie Sanders decried the “casino capitalist process.”
Martin O’Malley talked about passing a living wage and investing in infrastructure in Maryland.
Make no mistake, labor is influencing the debate. We are setting the terms and conditions of this election.
We have said all along that the presidential candidates must explain what they will do to make our economy fairer for working families. That’s what we insisted on at our national summit in January, and that’s what you are demanding here in New Hampshire today.
We have also been crystal clear that we do not work for any political party or candidate. We work for working people, plain and simple, because we want the freedom to live better lives, to take care of our families and to improve our jobs and our communities.
Brothers and sisters, for too long we’ve worked for the Democratic Party. In this election, we’re making the Democratic Party work for us.
Heck, even last week’s Republican debate included a discussion about inequality.
It is clear we are part of a powerful movement at an historic time and you are on the front lines. It starts with us and it starts here in New Hampshire.
We’re building collective power in the workplace, in the economy and in politics.
From now until the New Hampshire primary and beyond, we need to keep up the pressure.
We need to keep shaping the debate and making our voices heard.
We have a message for all the presidential candidates and anyone else who will listen.
We are going to do everything in our power to raise wages.
We are going to join together for good pay, great benefits and safe workplaces.
We are going to fight to guarantee women are paid one hundred cents on the dollar.
We are going to push for policies that make it easier to form a union and bargain collectively, and harder for employers to deny us those rights.
We are going to stand united and defeat the TPP so we can start investing in working men and women again.
And we are going to spend every single day building an America of shared prosperity that gives every one of us the opportunity for a better life.
Thank you! God bless you, and the work you do!