California Labor Marches Forward, Together

House of Labor United at the 2017 Joint Legislative Conference

With unprecedented federal attacks threatening working people across the nation, California Labor’s Joint Legislative Conference theme of “Resist and Rebuild” embodied the spirit of the California Labor Movement. We are unified and we are ready to not only go on defense, but on offense. And we’re going to stand together to win for working people.

Nearly 700 labor union leaders and members came together in Sacramento for the two day conference, jointly hosted by the California Labor Federation and California State Building and Construction Trades Council. Folks gathered on Monday at a union strong hotel – the Sheraton Grand in Sacramento – to hear from experts on California Labor’s legislative strategy to protect working people from looming threats at the federal level while also continuing to lead the nation in advancing the rights of working people.

AFSCME 3299 President and President of the Labor Federation Kathryn Lybarger kicked off the conference with a rousing speech calling folks to action. She was followed by a dialysis worker who is organizing a union with SEIU-UHW. Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski called on attendees to organize like never before to build power in the labor movement.

The Monday morning agenda also gave union members and leaders a chance to hear from champions for working families in the California Legislature – the Chair of the Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations Sen. Steven Bradford, Chair of the Assembly Labor & Employment Committee, Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. During lunch, Secretary of State Alex Padilla was honored with the “Defending Democracy” award for his groundbreaking efforts to protect and expand the right to vote.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra also spoke to the house of labor during lunch and shared how his father’s union membership helped his family thrive throughout his childhood. Governor Brown gave a rousing speech during dinner, acknowledging the crucial role of California Labor unions in passing Senate Bill 1: landmark legislation that will invest $50 billion annually for the next 10 years to repair California’s roads and bridges and create good jobs across the state. Ending his speech on a strong note of solidarity, Governor Brown encouraged folks in the room to keep up the fight for justice and for working families saying, “California is marching forward to a world that works for all of us!”

As in years prior, some of the most inspiring moments came from working people at the podium sharing their experiences fighting for justice and dignity on the job. Workers at Tesla – the only major American car manufacturer operating non-union – expressed their commitment to organizing at the plant in Fremont for safer working conditions and a living wage in the face of anti-union CEO & billionaire Elon Musk. Tech workers in dialysis clinics across the state also shared how they are organizing to improve conditions both for themselves and for their patients. The two largest dialysis corporations made $2.9 billion in profits in 2015 but they refuse to invest in their workers who care for the critically ill.  Members of the American Federation of Government Employees shared how the federal hiring freeze and cuts to agencies including the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Environmental Protection Agency will have a detrimental effect on working people who work there and those who rely on their services.

The conference also featured an afternoon plenary session dedicated to understanding the threat of “Right to Work” and other federal attacks on working people. Moderated by Orange County Employees Association General Manager Jennifer Muir Beuthin, the panel of experts on federal threats included US Representative Eric Swalwell, UNITE HERE President D Taylor, Craig Becker, General Counsel to the AFL-CIO, and President of the CA Building Trades Robbie Hunter. Legislative briefings throughout the day also gave attendees the chance to understand statewide legislative priorities ahead of the California Labor Lobby Day today at the Capitol.

Photos from the Union Strong photo booth are on Facebook here

Check out some of the action from the conference and Lobby Day shared on social media via our Conference Storify: