By GRAHAM TRAINOR, Oregon AFL-CIO president
The 58th Biennial Convention of the Oregon AFL-CIO ended on a high note in beautiful Central Oregon as we took to the streets of Bend to stand in unwavering solidarity with workers fighting for fairness and dignity. This was a fitting culmination to an action-packed few days of solidarity at an event solely focused on educating and inspiring Oregon labor. One delegate from Central Oregon said “it was the proudest she’s ever been” to see hundreds of union members in downtown reminding the public that Bend IS a union town.
This year’s convention could not have come at a more important and opportune time for labor to be strategizing about how to harness the historic moment we’re in. Every day, a new group of workers in Oregon or around the country is bravely standing up for fairness. Every day, a new group of workers has been pushed too far, and they’re choosing to do something about it. And every day, a new group of workers unites and inspires the entire working class, teaching us how to effectively fight corporate greed.
Just look at all that happened at convention: We heard from workers about their struggles and wins over the last year, including directly from Oregon’s UAW Local 492 picket line as part of the national strike against the Big Three automakers. We heard from powerful and diverse speakers about everything from technology and its impact on jobs, to the necessity of helping union members understand the intersectionality of various struggles for justice, to the urgency for capitalizing on this moment for transformational growth. We learned from panel discussions about ensuring the clean energy future is union made and how to use registered apprenticeships to innovate and grow unions. In workshops, we were empowered to bargain for the common good and to build stronger unions through sophisticated organizing approaches. We learned the inspirational history of women leaders organizing for a better life through a film screening and discussion. And we debated and passed resolutions to chart a progressive course for Oregon labor.
The momentum never ends at convention: In the last few weeks we’ve seen another wave of action in Oregon at Kaiser, the ongoing Operating Engineers strike in Corvallis, and potential strikes brewing including educators, healthcare workers, public service workers, and more.
Saying that this is an exciting time for our movement and the working class is an understatement. But the most important work in front of us is to harness this moment, harness the energy, and harness the opportunity.
And to harness the potential of this moment, we must ask important questions: Are we doing everything in our power to give workers dreaming of a better life the transformational, life-changing opportunity to hold a union card? Are we helping other union members better understand the intersectionality of our movements for justice including gender justice, economic justice, racial justice, reproductive justice? Are we ensuring that our doors are wide open, that our priorities and campaigns align with the values and beliefs of today’s workforce — the most pro-union generation among us?
Ending our convention in the streets of Bend was uplifting, inspiring, and energizing, and there’s no question that our movement left Central Oregon more united than we were when we showed up. Now, the hard work continues as workers across the economy are showing us how to fight — and win — against corporate greed. Are you ready to do everything in your power to harness this moment? See you in the streets!
The Oregon AFL-CIO is a federation of labor unions.