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Fifty-five years ago, in a speech to the convention of the Illinois AFL-CIO, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. laid out with characteristic moral clarity the essential role of unions in American life. “The labor movement,” he explained, “was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress … [When] the wave of union organization crested over the nation, it carried to secure shores not only itself but the whole society. Civilization began to grow in the economic life of man, and a decent life with a sense of security and dignity became a reality rather than a distant dream.”

This Labor Day, America’s working families are facing unprecedented challenges.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka discusses the George Floyd protests, police unions and unemployment on "Bloomberg: Balance of Power."

NPR's David Greene talks to NPR's Scott Horsley and William Spriggs, chief economist for the AFL-CIO, about the pandemic's effect on joblessness — especially on minority employees. SPRIGGS: Well, in this case, it's, for the Hispanic community, the industries in which they dominate. So they're very important to the restaurant industry. That industry lost the most amount of jobs. Before this downturn, we had 12.6 million Americans who worked in restaurants.

Declaring that working people are saying, “We’ve had enough,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said unions will continue the fight to root out systemic racism in the U.S. In a 77-minute Zoom telecast on June 3, Trumka and other labor leaders—AFSCME President Lee Saunders, Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, IBEW President Lonnie Stephenson, Painters President Ken Rigmaiden, Unite Here President D. Taylor, and two Unite Here regional leaders—laid blame for that racism at the feet of U.S. history and U.S. politicians.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka argued that the GOP’s reluctance to act quickly on another expansive relief bill would become unsustainable. “The pressure is building on them. People are about to run out of the $1,200 checks, the extra unemployment benefits will run out soon, that needs to be extended, the number of people without health care grows every day,” Trumka said in an interview. “All of that puts additional pressure on them to act.”

Statement from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on the events of the weekend

My heart is heavy at the events of the past few days. I watched the video of George Floyd pleading for his life under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. No person of conscience can hear Floyd’s cries for help and not understand that something is deeply wrong in America.

Nurses and other health care worker advocates and the labor movement represented by the AFL-CIO filed legal charges against the government to require mandated COVID-19 -related standards. Last week the AFL-CIO filed a 70-page petition in federal court to compel the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an emergency temporary standard protecting U.S. workers against being infected by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) at work. The lawsuit asks the courts to require OSHA to fulfill its lawful duty.

Postal union officials called for more financial support in upcoming COVID-relief packages on Wednesday, warning that the agency could run out of money by the end of September and disrupt essential services. “Without real relief, appropriated relief, not more debt, not more loans, appropriated relief, … the post office could likely run out of money by early fall,” said Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union.

The path to the presidency runs through the labor movement. And with the full force and unmatched reach of our political program, we are ready to pave that road for our friend Joe Biden.

Watch AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka's video message following the federation's endorsement of Joe Biden for President of the United States.