By Doug Cunningham
AFL-CIO Vice President Tefere Gebre says for working people to win in this political year we must make sure
our agenda drives politics rather than the agenda being politically driven. Gebre says that means making raising wages front and center. It means not settling for just fifteen dollars an hour, but fifteen and a union. And it means strong worker solidarity and collective action.
[Tefere Gebre]: “If everybody realizes that the power is within 'em and instead of just talking about things they start conspiring about things, I'm very very hopeful that - from the movement for black lives to the not one more movement to the Fight For $15 and a union - I am seeing people taking it out on the street and that's how a movement is being built. I'm confident - if everybody who is listening to this and if everybody who hears me takes on the call and goes out on the street.
We're seeing a lot of progress. Two of the top three states in the country - California and New York - just voted for a $15 minimum wage. Now I say our agenda is not just fifteen dollars, but fifteen dollars and a union. We're seeing a lot of progress for workers. But how we translate that into an election issue, that's a challenge but I think we are up to the challenge."
Gebre says the rise of women, people of color and immigrants in our labor movement, in our nation and in our politics presents an opportunity to harness that power to drive a working class agenda, which in turn will drive the politics. Gebre says many working people are angry and frustrated because they have been hurt by trade and economic policies. For workers to win, Gebre says, that anger has to be channeled into a genuine working class agenda that is powerful enough to drive the politics.
[Tefere Gebre]: "Working class people are really frustrated. We have used politics as a panacea top fix whatever ails us instead of creating an agenda and campainging on that agenda and winning on that agenda and holding people accountable on that agenda. And that is what we need to do. And I think that's what we're starting to do."
Gebre says too often even politicians who are perceived as being working friendly don't really come through for working people.
[Tefere Gebre]: "So that's why I'm talkin' about agenda driven politics instead of politics driven agenda. And we have to makre sure that our agenda is getting people elected. And our agenda is gonna hold people accountable after they get elected."