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Statement of Anna Burger on Change to Win's Formation

Sunday, July 24, 2005

July 24, 2005

This is an exciting day, and a proud moment in the history of the labor movement.

Today, we say that workers are going to take their country back. Today, we say, the time has come for big ideas and bold thinking. Today will be remembered as the rebirth of union strength in America.

Unfortunately, workers desperately need that rebirth. The American Dream is out of reach for an increasing number of families.

The exciting news is that, the Change to Win Coalition is about one thing: new hope for millions of workers in economic crisis.

All of organized labor sees this crisis. Our Coalition, however, believes that we can do something about it -- and has a bold plan of action to make real change.

We will provide the focus, the strategy, and the resources to help workers achieve the economic security they so richly deserve.

This debate began with a desire to reform the AFL-CIO. It has evolved into an exciting new movement to organize and unite workers across America -- and, in fact, around the world.

Over the past 9 months, every corner of the labor movement has debated reform. The AFL-CIO, to its credit, has listened to us. But in the end, they have not really heard us.

The language of our reforms has been adopted, but not the substance. Our principles have been watered down and papered over. Our vision has become the object of tactical haggling.

And today, we have reached a point, where our differences have become unresolvable.

Workers cannot afford half-measures.

Workers wake up every day and they don't think about living in a red state or a blue state. They think about the difficult choices they face. Housing or health care. Bus fare or breakfast.

These should not be American choices. America is better than that. Our workers deserve better than that. The Coalition's only mission is to make sure they get it.

Workers need the kind of reform that is based on courage and new thinking. A shared belief -- a belief in this fundamental reform -- is what unites our unions.

We wish the AFL-CIO well. We want them to achieve their goals. We agree with them on what we all want for working families. We disagree with them on how to achieve that goal.

It is clear that this convention will not adopt the strategy that we believe will win for working people. Therefore, four of the Change To Win Unions -- the Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers, UNITE HERE, and SEIU -- will not be participating in the AFL-CIO convention that begins tomorrow.

In addition, none of the leadership of the Change to Win Unions will serve in any elected capacity in the AFL-CIO.

Instead, tomorrow, leaders and organizing directors will begin implementing the Change to Win vision: industry-wide organizing, coordinated bargaining, and political action aligned with aggressive organizing campaigns.

We are going to walk our talk. We are going to get into the streets, together. Hotel maids and Wal-Mart clerks. Child care providers and waste haulers. Farm workers and carpenters. The workers who build the buildings and the workers who clean them.

Our vision is one of hope. We are more excited today than when we arrived here in Chicago. We now see an expanded, growing, vibrant labor movement within our reach.

And I want to personally applaud the seven union Presidents:

James P. Hoffa, President, Teamsters

Joe Hansen, President, UFCW

Bruce Raynor, General President, UNITE HERE

John Wilhelm, President of Hospitality Division, UNITE HERE

Terry O'Sullivan, President, Laborers International

Andy Stern, President, SEIU,

And our newest partner,

Arturo Rodriguez, President, United Farm Workers,

And, Doug McCarron, President, Carpenters Union, who is not with us today.

These leaders refused to accept the status quo and had the courage to unite behind a simple, burning goal: better lives for American workers.

Folks, the debate is over. It is time to go to work. That's what we're going to do. Thank you.

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