The AFL-CIO is including a regular feature in their Dispatch newsletter, where they ask three questions of a labor leader. This week features a short interview with Art Pulaski, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the California Labor Federation.
Q: Why is the national AFL-CIO important to you?
A: The AFL-CIO provides the structure and unity that the labor movement needs to build power for working people. We have huge challenges before us, including passing the PRO Act. When the labor movement takes action together through the AFL-CIO, the sky is the limit on what we can achieve. The PRO Act is the most important labor law reform in generations. Its passage would change countless lives by giving workers the opportunity to stand together to negotiate a fair deal on the job. Bold legislation is never easy, but through the AFL-CIO campaign, we will get this done.
Q: What are your highest priorities in 2021?
A: COVID-19 hit California hard. The health and economic effects have been staggering. Every day, we’re focused on rebuilding our economy, keeping workers safe as the pandemic continues and working with the Legislature and governor to increase wages, provide protection on the job and give more workers the opportunity to join a union.
Organizing also got hit hard by the pandemic. It takes real presence with people to explore the huge challenges and difficulties they suffer at work. So many have become exasperated by their employers, and we have already lost a full year in bringing them the aid and support they desperately need. It’s time for us to grab each other by the collar and charge up the hill to organize!
Q: Can you tell us about a recent win that the California Labor Federation has had?
A: We were able to pass expanded paid sick leave for essential workers affected by COVID-19. This was a huge victory for the labor movement in California, and especially for low-wage workers who don’t have a union on the job. Despite vigorous opposition from corporations, we moved a bill through the Legislature on an urgency clause and the governor signed it, meaning that it went into effect immediately to provide essential workers who put themselves at risk every day an extra layer of protection.