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In a speech delivered before the Center for American Progress on Tuesday, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez linked unionization to anti-poverty efforts. According to Perez, “There is an undeniable relationship — not just correlation, but direct causation — between declining poverty and the strength of the labor movement.”
Notably, Perez touched on ways the labor movement is reinventing itself to expand membership. As previously discussed, unions are increasingly partnering with so-called “worker centers” and other community-based organizations to achieve their goals. In fact, during its annual convention, the AFL-CIO adopted two resolutions backing closer cooperation between the labor organization and worker centers and held a breakout session on ways to create and promote “new forms” of union membership that would appeal to younger workers and nonunion members. During Tuesday’s speech, Perez touched upon this new labor movement direction:
In the coming years, we're going to see a rapidly evolving workers movement that takes many forms. More and more, we're seeing new groups of workers beginning to organize at the grass roots level. . . . The labor movement and other allies (many of them in this room) are welcoming and supporting these independent movements. This is exactly what we need: everyone working together, forging new strategies and building new alliances, in support of working people taking courageous action to improve their lives and communities.
This isn't your father's labor movement as you know. For more reasons than I have time to enumerate, our unions are seeking out new and innovative ways of doing business.
Perez also promoted an increase in the federal minimum wage – which he claims President Obama has put “near the top of his economic agenda” – as well as paid leave and comprehensive immigration reform. The full text of Perez’s remarks can be found here.