SAG-AFTRA Podcast with AFL-CIO President Looks at the Future of the Labor Movement – Deadline
SAG-AFTRA celebrates the upcoming Labor Day weekend with a podcast featuring Liz Shuler, president of the 12.5 million member AFL-CIO, who represents 57 affiliated unions, including SAG-AFTRA, and workers in all postcodes in the country.
According to Shuler, the future of organized labor is bright.
“We are stronger together,” Shuler said on the podcast. “As an affiliate union of the AFL-CIO, it brings the full breadth, reach and power of 12.5 million workers to each other’s fights. And SAG-AFTRA is on the front lines of so many things. A lot of people think, “Oh, well, SAG-AFTRA, are they really workers?” Well, of course, because you work in an industry like Hollywood, or you’re someone in broadcasting, you have absolutely the same problems as workers in other professions: safety and health problems, discrimination and harassment, and ensure that you are paid fairly for your work.
“So that means we can bring together the voices and the solidarity of more people to support each other in these fights. And I think of the work that you (SAG-AFTRA) have done during the pandemic, for example, being on the front lines to create safety standards that the rest of us could learn from. So this is just a small example of what we do to help each other. And it’s a great example of how we show each other.
You can listen to the podcast, co-hosted by SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland and SAG-AFTRA Executive Vice President Ben Whitehair, here.
“And I think in every industry, where there are workers and there are leaders,” Crabtree-Ireland said, “there is always a need to balance the power of management. And I don’t think anyone has ever found a better or more effective way to do it than by workers acting collectively. And our members are workers, that’s for sure. Anyone who’s been on a movie or television set, or in a newsroom or in a studio recording, certainly knows.
Underscoring the interdependence of unionized workers, Shuler pointed out that representatives of the labor movement joined the picket lines during SAG-AFTRA’s 10-month strike against advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty in 2018-2019, and that members of SAG-AFTRA showed up last year in support of striking New Mexico ice cream cake workers demanding a $1-an-hour wage increase. This, she said, “is a great example of how we are more powerful together.”
Reflecting on the historic gains unions have won for union and non-union workers — such as the five-day work week, paid vacations, and child labor laws — Whitehair noted that the AFL-CIO and the SAG-AFTRA are uniquely positioned to meet the challenges that workers will face in the future. One way to do this, he noted, is through their annual Labor Innovation and Technology Summit, which is a joint partnership between SAG-AFTRA and the AFL-CIO, which, according to him, “continue to look to the future”.
“I know you’ve been very active within SAG-AFTRA on these issues,” Shuler said. “And I know you have a committee within your union that is really dealing with this, feet first, as they say, and that is stepping in because technology is probably impacting your industry more than it is impacting our industry. any industry. If you think about the evolution and the direction we’re taking from here, it’s been a tremendous opportunity for us in the labor movement to partner with SAG-AFTRA at this innovation summit and work technology, because we can have access to the best thinking, the cutting edge strategies, on how to approach technology to make it work for workers. What safeguards do we need to put in place in our contracts and be able to share that with the rest of the labor movement?
“So that’s what it’s about as a collaboration. It’s a partnership to build the future because we know our economy needs highly skilled unionized workers because technology is disrupting our places of work. work and the ground continues to shift under our feet. But we’ve been there. Frankly, the labor movement is constantly evolving and changing as technology evolves over the past hundred years. And so the trick here is that as new jobs emerge, we want to make sure that the labor movement is the center of gravity to help workers navigate this change, to help them improve their skills and find that pipeline to the next opportunity and ensure that these jobs that are emerging are well-paying union jobs. So we look forward to working with you on the next Summit. And I know we are also partnering around the Consum er Electronics Show, which gives us a window into what the next innovations will be and how we can make them work for workers.
“It was so much fun doing this with the AFL-CIO,” Crabtree-Ireland said. “And speaking on behalf of SAG-AFTRA, we’ve certainly learned a lot and seen things happen through this type of forward-looking investment. And so, it was a really great partnership, and I observed that some of the other unions that were present when we put these programs in place also learned a lot from that experience.
Shuler also noted that the AFL-CIO has an institute of technology to develop expertise on the future of work and how best to bring the labor movement together in the face of emerging technologies. “So we’re trying to harness the power of labor to really shape technology and innovation for workers,” she told SAG-AFTRA leaders. “I don’t need to tell you how the pandemic has actually accelerated the use of technology in the workplace. And we see all kinds of reports about how workers are monitored. And I’ve even heard of this new technology called mouse jiggler, which is for people who work from home and who are monitored every 10 minutes by their employers based on their keystrokes and how they use their computers.
“And so, we have to lead the charge on how to have a voice at the table; how to include the perspective of workers when we build these new regimes of how we are going to work in new and different ways. And so we think organized labor needs to be at the center of those transformations to make sure that we have a role to play in shaping that future, because we really are the only force in the country, if you think about it, who has enough power to ensure that workers can shape that future and shape it together for our union members, but also for the rest of American workers.
Referring to a new Gallup poll that found 71% of American public support unions, Shuler noted that this figure is the highest since 1965, and up from 68% last year. “So the trend is only going up because workers are realizing their power,” she said. “And they say, ‘We worked on this pandemic. We took our country through it. We were often on the front line as essential workers. We were called essentials one day and treated as expendables the next. Companies are now making billions of dollars from this pandemic. It can be better. As if we had to stop and control ourselves. Like we weren’t just going to sit back and cash in. We have the power to stand up and demand better.
“And so that’s where this whole organization comes in and we see all over the country. Workers find their voice. They are standing. They take risks. They go on strike. They lead walkouts and picket lines. And you know, also “quietly stop”, as we read in the papers. So I think it’s a moment in time. This is a turning point for the labor movement. How do you harness the energy and the momentum, and all those positive feelings that people have about unions, into real union growth? »
“The stars seem to be aligned,” she said. “And if we don’t take advantage of this moment, then I don’t know when we will. We have a pro-union administration in the White House, the most pro-union president in our lifetime. We have the public with us – 71% approve of unions. And we have workers who stand up and are willing to take risks.
“And so that’s what gives me great hope, great joy, to be in the lead right now and to be there with you by your side and your members to show that the labor movement is more relevant , dynamic, bold, modern and inclusive than ever. And our doors are wide open. We are truly the only institution left capable of bringing people together to bring about the change workers need in this economy. Because, as you know, it doesn’t work for all workers. If we’re going to close that inequality gap, if we’re going to fight for equal pay for women, and fight discrimination and harassment, and for civil rights and human beings, then we have to do it with a robust and powerful working people movement.
“And that’s what we believe the AFL-CIO and our unions will be for the future and the next generation, and as the future of work evolves.” So it’s a very exciting time to be part of the labor movement.