Labor leaders heard our message: union action is vital for reproductive justice

Photo: Naheed Choudhry-Caballero.
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Against a backdrop of the AFL-CIO headquarters, labor and reproductive justice activists came together on June 24 to call on the labor federation to convene an emergency national labor conference on reproductive justice. The group gathered on Black Lives Matter Plaza on the second anniversary of the Supreme Court Dobbs decision that eliminated the constitutional right to abortion. Behind the speakers was an array of colorful placards and banners from the sponsors including the demand for “An end to abortion bans threatening 7 million Black women.”

Unexpectedly, the labor activists faced loud harassment from a handful of provocative anti-abortion disrupters. Defenders of abortion and bodily autonomy asserted their message with chants and signs. They outshouted their opponents with the chant, “Our bodies, our lives, our right to decide!”

The press conference organized by the National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice went forward with speakers and the presentation of 640+ letters to the AFL-CIO president urging labor action.woman at microphone flanked by banners for labor action for reproductive rights

Speakers expressed the urgency for action on the part of labor and discontent with empty promises from politicians. Mobilization Coordinator Helen Gilbert said, “The message is clear, it’s time to take action to preserve the reproductive health needs of all working people.”

The letter addressed to AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler asserts that “Labor is in the most powerful position to mobilize thousands of workers in defense of this fundamental right.” Shuler’s Chief of Staff Julie Collier received the letters at the podium. National Mobilization members expressed eagerness to hear a response from the federation’s leader. Reflecting on the day, abortion rights veteran Betty Maloney said, “The AFL-CIO needs to sound the fire alarm for workers to pour out into the streets for reproductive justice.”

Union speakers represented diverse sectors of labor including electrical trades, education, Amazon workers, TV writers, legal workers, nonprofits, and public employees.

Co-sponsors of the historic gathering included United Auto Workers and AFSCME Local 88 and Council 57 Retirees, Non-profit Professional Employees Union, Metropolitan Washington Council (representing over 150 unions), Radical Women, Georgia NOW, Reproductive Justice Maryland, Freedom Socialist Party, and Metro DC DSA.

Watch the livestream. Read reports at Reckon and Common Dreams.

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