On Tuesday March 13th, the LA Fed hosted its Workers’ Congress. The event included 1,000 union and community members from every industry and region. Shedding light on the role of Los Angeles in moving the country’s progressive agenda forward with the theme Inseparable, Rusty Hicks, President of the LA Fed, welcomed attendees. Morning speakers included storytellers explaining the benefit of a union, while raising the importance of issues such as income inequality, veterans, restorative justice, civil rights, affordable housing, immigration, accountability, education, and healthcare.
Afternoon speakers included well-renowned leaders such as Randy “Ironstache” Bryce, who is running against House Speaker Paul Ryan; DACA recipient Astrid Silva and Senior Advisor and National Spokesperson for MoveOn.org Karine Jean Pierre, who are fighting for social and economic justice in the national landscape.
Shedding light on the role of Los Angeles in moving the country’s progressive agenda forward, Rusty Hicks, President of the LA Fed, welcomed the crowd and morning speakers included storytellers explaining the benefit of a union.
“Our issues are inseparable, our futures are inseparable, we are inseparable, and today’s work is finding how we all win in 2018,” said Rusty Hicks.
Attendees heard from a father who spoke about being able to provide healthcare for his family through his union job, a disabled veteran who found stable employment with the help of a union, a mother whose surrogate son has changed his life for the better with his union’s support, and many others.
“If my family didn’t have quality healthcare through our unions, we’d probably have to depend on public assistance to cover all our bills. I’m grateful we have not had to do that, but I also know that our employers did not just hand over these benefits,” said Simboa Wright, a wastewater worker and member of SEIU 721. “I’m active in my union because it is important to have a voice as a worker, as a public employee.”
“Even though I wasn’t a union member, it was a union activist who stood up for me and called on our employer to hire me on permanently and told them not to discriminate against me because of my disability. That was six years ago. I continue to dedicate my time to my union to pay forward the opportunity they gave me,” Frank Vasquez, an Army veteran and USW 675 member, told the crowd.
“Sometimes people think that a union is just about wages and benefits, but for us it’s about belonging to something that we can depend on. My son’s union was there for him when things were hard, and he was able to get his life back on track,” said Iran Escorcia, speaking about how her son’s union (Roofers and Waterproofers Local 36) provided job security and support while he went through family and immigration issues.
Afternoon speakers included well-renowned leaders such as Randy “Ironstache” Bryce, who is running against House Speaker Paul Ryan, DACA recipient Astrid Silva and Senior Advisor and National Spokesperson for MoveOn.org Karine Jean Pierre, who are fighting for social and economic justice in the national landscape.
“It’s not just that union members should run, we have to. Because if we don’t run or if we don’t vote for pro-labor candidates in every election, even the local elections, then anti-worker conservative politicians are going to do to the entire country what Scott Walker did to Wisconsin. We shouldn’t just be protecting our rights, we should be expanding them. And with working people in office, we can finally get a family-sustaining federal minimum wage, Medicare for All, free college, and ensure equal pay for equal work,” said Randy Bryce, Congressional Candidate for WI-01.
“Immigrants in Nevada, DREAMERS like me, are all so grateful to Los Angeles because long before Trump, you were the place that gave birth to the immigrants’ rights movement,” said Astrid Silva, an immigrant rights activist from Las Vegas. “Los Angeles is big, and there are millions of immigrants who make their homes here. But, you organized them. You helped people become citizens. You took to the streets. You made our rights at work your fight. You showed us the path to power and dignity and fearlessness.”
Karine Jean Pierre of MoveOn.org reinforced the “Inseparable” theme of the Workers’ Congress in her remarks saying, “Last year, we learned just how powerful our voices are when we use them in unison…2017 was the year we learned that when we stand together, we win. That when we cry out in harmony, we are louder than any voice trying to drown us out. That when the middle class stands up, we are so much stronger than the one percent. 2017 was about our voice–finding it, using it, amplifying it. 2018 will be the year we win our country back.”
Additionally, the LA Fed swore in its most diverse Executive Board in the organization’s 133-year history, including the leader of an alternative worker organization, Alexandra Suh, Executive Director of the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance. In the midst of labor facing attacks by anti-worker forces, now more than ever LA plays a critical role in growing the labor movement and building collective political power from now until 2020.