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Labor Perspective From National AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond: America Is ‘Hungry’ For Unions

Published Tuesday, September 14, 2021
by National AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond
Labor Perspective From National AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond: America Is ‘Hungry’ For Unions

America's Workers are recognizing something fundamental: there is promise and power in coming together.

Gallup just reported that two in three Americans approve of Labor Unions, the highest mark since 1965.

Among adults under 34 and People of Color, that approval is even higher - three in four support Unions.

This report should come as no surprise.

Unions have always been the most effective way for Workers to speak in a collective voice.

America is hungry for Unions and the Senate must heed our call and pass policies that protect our rights on the job.

Shortly before Labor Day and shortly after legendary Labor Leader Richard Trumka's unexpected death, I was honored to be elected to the number-two position in the National AFL-CIO - the Labor Federation of 12.5 million Members and 56 Unions, including mine, the United Steelworkers (USW).

Under the leadership of newly-elected President Liz Shuler, the first Woman ever to hold that office, and Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre, we make up the most diverse team of Officers in National AFL-CIO history.

We are committed to building a modern Labor Movement that gives every Working Person access to a good-paying Union job.

And I know firsthand what an incredible difference that job can make.

My parents, Curtis and Odessa Redmond, were born to sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta and made the Great Migration to Chicago in 1958.

They came with very few belongings, but a very strong desire to build a better life.

While we had little money, my parents were rich in love, hope, faith and an unbreakable work ethic.

My three brothers and I grew up poor.

We lived on food stamps and my Mother, a Domestic Worker who rode three buses every morning to clean folks' houses and cook their food, shopped for us at Goodwill.

My father took every kind of job he could find - pumping gas, working as a Janitor and stocking supermarket shelves.

Neither one of them ever complained and I never heard either make a single excuse.

Then something big happened, something that changed everything.

My Dad got a Union job at an aluminum mill outside of Chicago.

Nearly overnight, we had more security, opportunity and prosperity.

We stopped going to the free clinic.

We got off food stamps.

We still went to our local Goodwill - only now it was to donate clothes.

Today, too many families are still waiting for that kind of change.

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