Remarks of AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka

Posted By: February 06, 2016

2016 World Peace Prize Ceremony
Washington, District of Columbia
February 3, 2016


Thank you.  It’s humbling to receive such a distinguished award.  I am deeply touched by this recognition.

 As you know, I’m a labor leader, and that means I care about justice on the job and about people everywhere who work.  Quite frankly, on most days, I’m too close to the fight to afford the luxury of stepping back and taking stock of the broad state of working people, but I pray that we together are moving the needle, and I pray we’re making a contribution to a more peaceful, understanding and broadly prosperous world.

I know that Father Sean McManus has moved the needle, and, Father, for that, I offer you, on behalf of the entire AFL-CIO, a sincere, “Thank you.”

I know Rev. Dr. Han Min Su has made world peace his life’s work, and for that effort, also, I say thank you.

The nature of this award raises a fundamental question as we look around the world today.  At refugees.  At conflict.  At growing inequality.  At record numbers of billionaires profiting off the backs of workers.  And it seems so clear that peace is tied to the ability of people to create a decent living, to live a good life and to raise a family.

Without that fertile environment, peace becomes a scarce commodity.

And yet, we know how supporting the search for justice on the job creates rays of hope.  With hope, people invest time and energy in home and family.  With hope for a better future, working people will strive to build better jobs, better lives and a more just society.

Pope Francis reminds us that power, money and culture do not give us dignity.  Honest work does.  Each in its own way, all of the world’s religions offer us that same message.

Brothers and sisters, we know from experience how collective voices on the job can promote and strengthen democracy in our civil societies, while creating a stable environment for peace to grow and thrive.

Peace does not exist alone.  Like solidarity or love or friendship, it’s something that exists between us.

Through the work of the AFL-CIO with union partners around the world, we are actively building a future where workers have greater power that is translated into better living and working conditions.  We want a global economy that meets the needs of working people here in the United States and in nations like Colombia and El Salvador and Bangladesh and Syria where workers are at the forefront of movements for political, economic and social justice.  I am proud to be part of this global movement for justice.

To the awarding council, thank you again for this acknowledgement.  We are inspired by all you do to advance peace and prosperity.  

 God bless you, and the work of your hands.