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2016 International Trade Union Conference—Youth Forum

Richard Trumka • December 13, 2016 • Washington, D.C.

Brothers and sisters, welcome.  It’s wonderful to have you here.  Thank you for taking part in this international forum for the next generation of trade union leaders.

Before you kick off your important work here, I want to talk about something that’s on everybody’s mind: Donald Trump and the emerging global movement of hatred and division.

First, we will not move forward in fear.  We will continue to live and act with a solidarity that transcends boundaries, no matter what we look like, where we come from, how we worship, who we love, what language we speak or anything else.  When it comes to standing together for a better life, we will not retreat one single inch.

Second, the disturbing rise of the right is what happens when inequality rises and insecurity plagues the hearts and erodes the hopes of too many people.  We see it happening in America, Europe and throughout the world.

There’s nothing preordained about where we go from here.  In fact, while the danger of this moment is undeniable, it is also filled with tremendous opportunity.

It’s more important than ever to build our global labor movement because we face a dual threat: one from destructive neoliberal policies and politicians; and the other from right-wing populism that brought about Brexit, Donald Trump and other threats to our prosperity and security.

Your work developing a new, global “Economic and Political Agenda for Young Workers” comes at a critical time, and will shape the direction of our movement and young worker campaigns internationally.

For too long, I’ve heard leaders talk about the decline of America’s labor movement as if it’s a force of nature.  It’s not.  Corporate special interests and their allies in government have been coming after us for decades.  We must turn them back.  We have no excuses.  We will rise to the demands before us.  We’ll act with urgency to combat bigotry and hatred, and our weapon will be solidarity, the same solidarity that has won raising wages and better lives in America and across the world.

Our agenda remains the same.  That’s something I take to heart every single day.  How can we move the needle for working people?  How can we raise wages and make our families more secure?  Our opposition is clear—and so is our mission.

At the AFL-CIO we know that organizing and empowering young people is key to growing and strengthening our movement.  We are working hard to foster the environment for young workers to organize and mobilize, to demonstrate with courage our values and our vision of shared prosperity, of true solidarity and mutual respect.  Global solidarity is the best antidote to false populism and xenophobia.

The American labor movement stands with each and every one of you.

Have a wonderful conference.

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