Richard Trumka November 5, 2020
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka delivered the following remarks at his post-election press conference:
Good afternoon. Thank you for joining this call.
More than that, thank you for your role in making our democracy strong.
I am hopeful that the end of the Trump presidency will bring a newfound respect for the institution of journalism.
This has been an unprecedented election. And it came during an unprecedented year.
A year of anger and sorrow and civil unrest. A year of unfathomable loss. Loss of jobs and economic security. Loss of life.
The U.S. just reported more than 100,000 new COVID-19 infections, the most cases in a single day since pandemic’s start.
But during this trying year, union members have delivered for America—every day in every way. Stocking the shelves. Moving goods and people. Fighting the fires. Healing the sick.
The resilience of unions is the story of 2020. It’s been on display all year.
It’s guided by our belief that a better day is still within our reach. And today, I am more confident than ever that better day is near.
Joe Biden has won more votes than any candidate for president—ever. And he is on a path to 270 electoral votes.
Biden’s path to the White House ran through America’s labor movement. Initial toplines from our post-election survey show union members went 58 percent for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. While the general public supported Biden by three points, our members favored him by 21 points.
Simply put, we got out the vote. In Wisconsin. In Michigan. In Pennsylvania.
Joe Biden’s firewall was union made!
And the labor movement is expanding the map. Look at Arizona. Look at Georgia.
We’re writing America’s comeback story. And Joe Biden is on track to be our next president.
But with a few final states still counting ballots, this is a moment to exercise patience.
Tom Petty got it right: “The waiting is the hardest part.” But we waited four years for this election—four VERY long years. We have trust in our system.
Every vote must be counted. Voters decide elections. Not judges. Not legislators.
Sadly, President Trump does not share that fundamental American belief. His premature declaration of victory was shameful. His tweets claiming electoral votes are destructive. His plan to derail our democracy is dangerous.
AFL-CIO members of all political stripes agree. Seventy-eight percent believe the candidates should accept and respect the will of the American people. That includes Biden and Trump voters.
Union members love this country because we built this country. And no matter who we supported, we’re ready to rebuild and heal this country. And together, we will defend our democracy.
Let me tell you about what happened in Detroit. On Tuesday night, a chaotic scene erupted outside the vote tally room at the TCF Center. Protesters showed up. They harassed and intimidated nonpartisan volunteers who were counting ballots. They screamed “stop the votes” and “stop the counts.” The Michigan AFL-CIO put out an email Wednesday at 3 a.m. asking members to show up and protect our democracy. The outpouring of support was incredible. Union members showed up, peacefully defused the tension and the count proceeded.
Later that day, Michigan was called for Joe Biden.
That is who we are. That is what we stand for. That is what we are prepared to do.
I have a message for anyone who would seek to prevent our votes from being counted. To prevent the electors we choose from being seated. To prevent the duly elected president and vice president from being inaugurated on January 20, 2021.
We will not let you take our democracy away from us.
Look, we are not declaring victory yet, but we are on our way to putting a compassionate and wise man back in the White House.
There will be work to do over these next few days. And no shortage of work over the next four years. While we don’t know the final composition of the Senate, we know our priorities. Our members made it clear. 95 percent say that protecting workers’ rights is the top priority for this next congress. And yes, that includes 93 percent of our members who went for Trump.
The right to collective bargaining.
Fair wages and workplace safety.
A voice on the job.
The belief that all work has dignity and everyone should retire with security.
None of that is red or blue. It’s simply American. It’s what America’s labor movement has fought for in 2020—not just in this election but in our workplaces, too.
Union members are meeting the moment. Union voters are ushering in a better day. None of this will be easy, but union members are not afraid of hard work. We do it every day and we see the job through.
We’re powerful. We’re united. And we’re ready for change.