Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke at a press conference alongside labor union experts and activists in support of the PRO Act. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks:
It’s great to be here. I want to thank everyone for being here. I want to just say a word. This is named for Rich Trumka. Every one of us in this room knows that he is looking down smiling, but not just smiling, importuning us on to get this done. That was Rich Trumka. Thank you.
I want to thank my great colleagues, Bernie Sanders, who just had to go vote, Patty Murray, was the leader of our HELP Committee and now has moved up even, she's leader of our Appropriations Committee and a great union leader, and my great partner in the House, fellow Brooklynite, just already a wonderful, wonderful leader, Hakeem Jeffries. And we have another New Yorker in the room. He's not quite from Brooklyn, a little bit north, but he's pretty good, okay? Jamaal Bowman as well.
First, I want to thank you, Kirsten, for the great work you've done organizing an Apple store, and in Oklahoma. It's easier to organize an Apple store in Brooklyn than in Oklahoma. So I know how hard that is. But it's hard working people like you who remind us of the importance of protecting that right to organize. You are emblematic of the inspirational union organizing energy that is happening across the country. We are looking at so many new industries that people thought unions couldn't go near and organizing them. And in that regard, the best is yet to come. We're going to be organizing everywhere.
So we're here today to introduce legislation, of course, that will make all of that a lot easier. It will provide a vote to hardworking Americans, like Kirsten, that will empower them as they bargain for better wages, benefits, and safer working conditions. And as Bill and some of the old timers know, I've been very involved in this. I was the original author of something called Card Check. That was right before PRO. And my mentor came over to me and said, “Chuck, it's a very important bill. Do you mind if I carry it?” I said, “Of course, Senator Kennedy, you should carry it.” And he did.
But I've been involved in this for a very, very long time. And we're here today to stand with the working people of America as they fight for the right to have a voice in how they're paid, how their work environments are structured, from sick days to flex time. Kirsten and millions of working Americans deserve a better quality of life for them and their families. They deserve the chance to enjoy a fair share of the extraordinary productivity and wealth they generate, as Bernie pointed out. Productivity is way up, wages have not caught up. And the number one reason? Because the bosses have figured out ways to avoid unions, and we have to change that. It was unions that created the middle class. And you want to know the best, the best way to build the middle class and strengthen it? Strengthen unions. That's what history shows. So the PRO Act does exactly that. That's why we're here today. I'm going to continue fighting for unions.
We did make some progress in the omnibus, we got $25 billion to increase to the NLRB, which now has now has a good pro-union majority. It's driving those bosses crazy. And that's good because it's not just driving them crazy that we're getting things done there. And that's why it's so important. And that's why a Senate majority is so important. Empowering the labor movement is highly personal to me. I deeply believe in the value of unions as a critical element in making our dynamic economy work at its highest – highest – level. And so that's why I was not just an original supporter of the PRO Act but earlier versions, as I mentioned. The bottom line: unions have to be the powerful force in building and building and building the working class. In providing a path to the middle class, we not only close economic gaps, but we also close the persistent racial and gender wage gaps. Racial and gender equality go hand in hand with union strength, plain and simple. That's what history shows. So the PRO Act not only provides labor reform, but will empower marginalized workers, women, people of color, immigrants, the LGBTQ community by empowering all these workers in the labor force to band together. So this is a great day and I'm proud to be here. I'm going to tell you a little story to conclude before I introduce Hakeem, but promise you, I'm gonna do everything I can to push this legislation forward. It's a passion for me.
So when I first ran, I ran against the Democratic machine, an old time corrupt machine in southern Brooklyn. Before you, Hakeem, and the first day I ran, I went into my local barber, Frankie, on Nostrand Avenue. And I said, ‘Frankie, would you put a poster in the window?’ He said, “Sure, kid,” and then he said, “Kid, I never told you this. I'm not only a local barber. I'm the local bookie. You're the 50 to one underdog. How much you want to bet on yourself?” No one thought I'd win. But guess who I had in my corner? – The union movement. People like Paul Hall and Morty Bar who were from my community backed me. Morty Bar was CWA and here I am. The night I won I said to the labor movement, who were the only people in our little victory room because no one thought we'd win. I said, ‘you were there when I needed you. I will always be there when you need me.’ Thank you, everybody.