The Movement to Meet the Moment

Graham Trainor
Graham Trainor

By GRAHAM TRAINOR, Oregon AFL-CIO president

I can’t think of a more exciting time to be a part of the struggle for economic and social justice. You don’t have to look very far to find a headline about an inspirational organizing campaign or a group of workers striking for fairness. 

Just think about this for a moment. More workers are turning to the labor movement to make their lives better than at any point in recent memory. And why is that? It might be that they are looking around the economy for who is on their side, who is fighting for them. And what do they see? Constant news stories about workers in various industries forming unions, workers fighting for and winning life-changing contracts, inspirational strikes, and labor actions that are winning real change. This is giving them hope that they, too, can make change at work by joining together with their colleagues.

This is all in spite of intense backlash from bosses, high profile illegal union busting, an anti-union Supreme Court majority gearing up yet again to attack us and our right to strike, and powerful forces with a singular focus of keeping working people in our place. 

Unions are seeing our highest levels of support since 1965. More than 60 million workers say they would join a union today if they had the chance. And to top it off, labor unions were the only institution in America that did not see confidence ratings decline in an annual Gallup poll done last year that looks at 16 major U.S. institutions. 

Workers are clearly saying “enough is enough.”   

And now, just look at what’s happening around us. We’re seeing an over 50% increase in union election petitions. Some of the largest, most powerful corporations are seeing inspirational organizing campaigns. And perhaps the most exciting and hopeful part of all this is that many of these headline-grabbing organizing campaigns are being led by young people, by women, and by workers of color. Young people are a part of the most pro-union generation among us, with nearly 80% saying they support labor unions. 

This moment we are in is exciting, and the Oregon labor movement has great potential given these current conditions. 

But it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to take us ensuring that our unions are truly prioritizing and resourcing organizing and growth. And it’s going to require us to be strategic about how we build power in key industries. 

Growth and organizing must be the lens we think about all of our work through. To be the movement that meets this moment, we must ensure that our doors are wide open, that our priorities align with the values of today’s workforce, and of the most pro-union generation among us. Showcasing the intersectionality of the various struggles for justice — racial justice, gender justice, reproductive justice, environmental justice, immigrant justice, LGBTQ+ justice – and not being afraid to help our members connect those dots too. Being an intersectional movement for working people is a necessity in today’s economy. 

Because we know the corporate agenda’s playbook — to divide us in every way they can by educational attainment, craft, race, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status — the list of divide and conquer strategies goes on. 

It’s one thing to feel the excitement in today’s labor movement, it’s another to double down and seize the opportunities that are in front of us. Are you ready? See you in the streets!

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