Cortez Masto to AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention: We Must Expand Collective Bargaining Power
“For decades, the AFL-CIO has been leading the charge in the fight for workers’ rights and stronger unions. You have been pioneers for social and economic justice throughout the Silver State.”
“We’re building the economy of the 21st century in the Silver State—not just because it’s good for our environment, but because it means thousands of good paying labor jobs that support those innovative, cutting-edge industries coming to our state, at a time when the whole world needs those creative products and solutions.”
“When we give you the leverage, you make amazing things happen. You’ve transformed what it means to work in the United States; you’ve protected the dignity of work; and we’re all better for it.”
Las Vegas, Nev. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) delivered remarks at the 63rd Annual AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention, addressing ways to continue attracting good paying jobs to Nevada, protecting workers’ rights, and enhancing unions’ bargaining power. Below are her remarks as prepared for delivery:
Good morning! I’m pleased to be joining you today, the final day of the 63rd Annual Constitutional Convention.
I hope these past two days have been productive as you set your course for the year ahead.
I’m so proud of Nevada’s strong tradition of organized labor, and what better place to honor that tradition than here in Las Vegas, with its long-standing union history.
You know, my father was a member of the local Teamsters union. When I was young, he parked cars right here in Las Vegas at the Dunes Hotel and Casino.
The benefits his union fought for allowed our family to build a middle-class life.
That’s why I understand how important it is to protect and fight for our unions, to strengthen their bargaining rights, so that they can organize for fairer workplaces and good paying jobs.
For decades, the AFL-CIO has been leading the charge in the fight for workers’ rights and stronger unions. You have been pioneers for social and economic justice throughout the Silver State.
I want to commend you for your continued efforts fighting for working families. And I remain committed to fighting alongside you in those efforts.
One of my priorities in the United States Senate is to make sure we keep good paying jobs here in the US.
I support the incorporation of the Wyden-Brown proposal to the USMCA. And I’m going to oppose any trade deal that lacks strong, union-supported protections for American jobs and our economy here at home. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I will fight to ensure that workers’ rights are protected in any trade deal and that labor is always at the table when those deals are being negotiated with other countries.
We shouldn’t be trying to grow the American economy at the expense of its workers.
I’ve also been working hard to ensure that we are investing in our infrastructure. This is a win-win for our communities and trades. Nevada is leaning into manufacturing, clean energy, and innovative transportation solutions. That’s how we’ll maintain our remarkable job growth—you know, we have the fastest job growth in the country right now.
We’re building the economy of the 21st century in the Silver State—not just because it’s good for our environment, but because it means thousands of good paying labor jobs that support those innovative, cutting-edge industries coming to our state, at a time when the whole world needs those creative products and solutions.
At the same time we welcome corporations to create new opportunities, we have to hold those industries accountable so that they’re playing by the rules and prioritizing our communities.
I oppose this administration’s plans to let industry create apprenticeship programs that don’t measure up to existing standards.
There’s no need for industry to establish inferior programs with minimal oversight, and I’m pushing back against that. We need to protect established apprenticeship programs.
Right here in Nevada, we’re seeing amazing growth in technology. I like to call us the Innovation State. Yet we need to make sure that as we’re growing, we’re also strengthening the skills of our hardworking union members in the process.
There’s a better solution to the challenge of expanding the pipeline of capable, trained workers, and that’s to do what unions are doing right here in Nevada: partnering with our higher education system. Places like the College of Southern Nevada, Western Nevada College, and Truckee Meadows Community College.
Those partnerships take care not to undercut existing programs. And the key thing with these partnerships is that they give unions a say, because you all are in the best position to determine what new workers need to know.
So we’ve got the jobs, we’ve got the worker pipeline. We also need to make sure industry treats workers fairly, and I don’t have to tell you: the easiest way for corporations to show workers that they are valued is to pay them fairly.
I support a higher minimum wage, and I’m glad the Nevada legislature and Governor Sisolak have taken action to increase them in Nevada.
Speaking of pay . . . A century after we ratified the 19th amendment guaranteeing women a vote, we also have to guarantee them equal pay. It’s long past time for that.
I’m a cosponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act to close loopholes that let employers do things like prohibit employees from comparing notes on pay. That’s just not fair.
I want to secure other key benefits to workers.
Without any doubt, the most important workplace benefit is health care. People here in Nevada tell me all the time that health care is their number one concern.
I’m fighting to protect and expand the Affordable Care Act, and I’m fighting to make sure employers hold up their end of the social contract by protecting the health of employees and their families.
And this is important for folks with good, solid, union health plans: we need to get rid of the Cadillac tax, which hits people with employer-sponsored plans. The House of Representatives has already passed this legislation, and I want to bring pressure to bear in the Senate to get this done for workers.
We also have a fight ahead of us to make sure hardworking families have the support they need if a loved one gets sick.
Paid sick leave shouldn’t even be up for debate in 2019. I’m pushing for the Healthy Families Act to expand sick leave at the federal level.
But you know, it’s one thing for me to fight for better health care and higher pay on workers’ behalf in the Senate. I’m doing that, no question.
But I also want to enhance your ability to fight for yourselves.
The most important change we can make at the federal level is to expand collective bargaining rights, so that unions can do what they do best: lead the way in the fight for healthier, more humane, and more dignified workplaces.
This is especially important at a time when the Supreme Court of the United States has given the green light to weakening unions’ power to bargain.
I support a bill that protects public sector unions that represent workers like teachers, nurses, law enforcement, and firefighters. And I am a proud supporter of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which enhances workers’ ability to strike and protest.
These kinds of laws let you advocate for one another. And as your history shows, union members are some of the most powerful campaigners on the planet.
When we give you the leverage, you make amazing things happen. You’ve transformed what it means to work in the United States; you’ve protected the dignity of work; and we’re all better for it.
I’ve seen firsthand the impact you have. I wouldn’t be here as Nevada’s first female Senator, and the nation’s first Latina Senator, without you.
I wish you all the best during this convention, and I look forward to fighting alongside you to advance our shared goals of equity and dignity for every worker.
Thank you for all you do.
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