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2024 COPE Convention Daily Reports

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2024 Texas AFL-CIO COPE Convention

Daily Report — Day 1

  Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy opened the convention at 10 a.m. Delegates heard welcomes from Austin Central Labor Council President Jason Lopez, who discussed “reminding our neighbors that there’s a better life available to them” in unions, and State Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, who went over kitchen-table issues and told union members preparing for election season, “You know your power. Bring that power to bear this November. You can make the difference…My absolutely favorite thing about labor is y’all know how to throw down.”

  The Credentials Committee reported registration of 264 delegates, 42 alternates, 190 guests and 48 fraternal members for a total of 504 persons in attendance. 

  U.S. Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Dallas, a rising star in Congress, delivered a stirring call to election action: “In Texas, it couldn’t be a worse time…It’s not good enough to show up and vote.” Crockett called for an all-out effort,  pulling out all stops, for Democrats to take back the U.S. House and hold the Senate and White House. “This is a team sport,” she said. “There is no better team than the blue team.”

  Levy contrasted two key numbers. A recent poll, first of its kind, found that 64 percent of Texans believe unions are good for workers. Yet even though Texas outperformed  and added union density in 2023, only 4.5 percent of workers here belong to unions. “Texas is not an anti-union state,” Levy said. “Texas is an unorganized state – and it’s up to us to change that.” He called on Texas union members to take our momentum — highest popularity in half a century and more and more breakthrough organizing — and go all out in the election year, both to grow unions and win elections. “Look around: There ain’t no cavalry coming. We are the cavalry…The sky is the limit, y’all. Can you imagine the gratitude of the entire country when we send Ted Cruz home for good?”

  Texas AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Leonard Aguilar added an ingredient to discussion of union population numbers, saying unions can also grow through internal organizing. While affiliated Texas AFL-CIO union members have hit a generational high above 241,000 members, that is less than half the total number of union members in Texas, noted Aguilar, who has worked long hours on affiliation issues. “Until you get to  where you want to be, you can’t be satisfied with where you are,” Aguilar said. He then applied the thought to politics. “Our way of life depends on the election. Our working democracy depends on this election.”

  Sandy Reding, President of the California Nurses Association, offered a solidarity speech, thanking the Texas AFL-CIO and affiliated unions for support as nurses have struck and fought for a first contract at Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin. At the same time, Reding discussed nurses’ presence at a variety of labor fights ranging from the United Auto Workers strike to the legislative fight against the “Death Star” bill. At the conclusion of her remarks, Reding led a chant, “You take on one of us, you take on all of us.”

  Following a lunch break, delegates heard brief remarks about growing the union movement from four amazing organizers: Robin Johnson (Communications Workers of America); Pauline Mims (United Auto Workers); Jennifer Hernandez (International Union of Painters and Allied Trades); and David Beard (United Steelworkers). All four roused delegates, pointing to momentum the labor movement gains with each organizing success.

  Texas American Federation of Teachers President Zeph Capo went over a mixed landscape for public education. On the plus side: retired Texas teachers gained their first cost of living adjustment in 20 years, and AFT members led the way in seeking better working conditions from the Legislature. On the minus side, Gov. Greg Abbott held pay raises hostage to private school vouchers, and school districts were strapped when a $33 billion surplus produced no real increase in state support for public schools. Capo pointed to the ballot box as a way to fight back and win.

  Next, COPE delegates and a slew of news reporters were treated to the first and likely only Democratic U.S. Senate debate in Texas featuring the top candidates. U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, and State Rep. Carl Sherman answered questions about organized labor and a wide range of economic and social issues. Labor questions were posed by Levy and Aguilar. Other questions came from invited moderators Jessica Montoya Coggins, Executive Director of the Texas Signal Media Foundation, and Bob Garrett, Austin Bureau Chief of the Dallas Morning News. The well-received debate was broadcast and covered across Texas, centering a labor movement on the rise while elevating the campaign toward the March 5 primary.

  Delegates adjourned to committee meetings, constituency group meetings, and caucuses, then convened in the evening for a social hour and the Texas Labor Hall of Fame dinner. Inducted into the Hall: Nancy Hall of Communications Workers of America (posthumously); Tom Carlin of the Transport Workers Union; and Mike Cunningham of the Insulators Union and Texas Building & Construction Trades Council. The Texas AFL-CIO salutes these who made a huge difference in our movement and will now be honored with plaques in the Texas AFL-CIO Building.




Daily Report — Day 2

  Delegates began the day by attending one of five workshops on topics that are relevant to the COPE political program: 

—“Expanding Our Capacity: Volunteer Recruitment & Retention,” presented by AFL-CIO Senior Field Rep Joe Montemayor;

— “Issue Based Campaigns: Leveraging Retiree Power,” presented by Eli Melendrez, Texas American Federation of Teachers;

—“Development of Worksite Programs: Workers Are at the Worksite,” presented by Jay Malone of the Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation;

—“Strategic Communications: ‘Why Are We Saying That?’” presented by Nicole Hill and Anthony Elmo of the Texas American Federation of Teachers; and

—“Texas Is a Non-Voting State: Voter Registration,” presented by Terry Bermea, Executive Director of the Battleground Texas Engagement Fund.


  President Levy called the convention to order at 10:15 a.m. Following a singing invocation by the Rev. Erin Walter, the Credentials Committee reported an updated final tally of 264 delegates, 22 alternates, 217 guests, speakers and volunteers, and 29 fraternal delegates, for a total of 532 attendees.

  Marisa Bono, Chief Executive Officer of Every Texan, connected recently released Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing growth in union membership in Texas to building voice and power within the labor movement and to preservation of democracy. “Your struggles are not just labor victories but victories for democracy itself…When we listen to workers, we win; when we listen to teachers, we win; when we listen to unions, we win.”

  Resolutions Committee Co-Chairs Shannon Faulk (AFGE) and Hany Khalil (Gulf Coast ALF) presented recommendations to approve 11 resolutions. Ten passed readily, while extensive, respectful debate was held on a resolution urging the AFL-CIO to take positions regarding the Middle East conflict. That resolution passed on a rare roll call vote of 52,858 to 43,003.

  State Rep. Mihaela Plesa delivered the “COPE Pitch,” discussing how grass-roots work overseen by the Texas AFL-CIO in a district that has no Central Labor Council jurisdiction made her the first Democrat to hold a House seat from Collin County in 30 years and the first Democratic woman ever elected from that county. Plesa urged contributions to the Texas AFL-CIO COPE Fund to help continue the political work. “Texas workers know Texas workers,” Plesa said. “You guys are the lifeblood of our state.”

  A panel moderated by Texas AFL-CIO Director of Politics and Policy Emily Amps featured State Reps. Erin Gámez, D-Brownsville, Venton Jones, D-Dallas, and Armando Walle, D-Houston, discussing major issues at the Texas Legislature. The good (paid parental leave, a long-overdue COLA for retired teachers, better post-natal Medicaid coverage and other matters), the bad (the “Death Star” bill, anti-immigrant legislation, anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, etc.), and the ugly (school funding increases held hostage to Gov. Greg Abbott’s quest for vouchers) took center stage. One point of focus: Rep. Armando Walle’s highly personal account of his nationally publicized tirade against an anti-immigrant bill that he justifiably called “un-American.” 

  Following a lunch break, during which the Texas AFL-CIO COPE Committee met, delegates adopted COPE endorsements, topped by the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Colin Allred for the U.S. Senate seat held by Ted Cruz.

  President Levy discharged committees and the convention concluded with the traditional singing of “Solidarity Forever.”