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John Sweeney, who led an era of transformative change in America’s labor movement, passed away Feb. 1 at the age of 86.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka discusses why America needs a strong labor movement and how the Biden administration is committed to strengthening unions.

Major labor leaders like Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, are more optimistic about the prospects for organized labor than they’ve been in many years. “I know what he is. Joe Biden’s a blue-collar guy,” said Trumka, who like Biden is from a working-class area in Pennsylvania and has known the president for 40 years. “He understands working people, the importance of a paycheck, importance of health and safety on the job, importance of having a union .… He understands all of that. It’s not something he picked up in the polls. It’s what he believes.”

The 2021 Union Plus Scholarship application deadline is this Sunday, Jan. 31. The Union Plus Scholarship Program awards scholarships based on outstanding academic achievement, personal character, financial need and commitment to the values of organized labor. Union Plus Scholarship awards are granted to students attending a two-year college, four-year college, graduate school, or recognized technical or trade school.

According to AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, its Rooney Rule proposal is “clearly workable” as evidenced by other big companies that have adopted similar policies. “Diversity and inclusion at all levels is important for companies to succeed, particularly in industries where there has been a historic underrepresentation of women and minorities in senior level positions,” Shuler told Kotaku in an email. “We are pleased that many banks have adopted diverse candidate search policies, and we are now turning our attention to tech companies.

In the last Congress, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the US House of Representatives passed the most significant worker empowerment legislation since the Great Depression by creating a much fairer process for forming a union. It is called the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act. After an anti-worker majority blocked it in the Senate, reintroducing the PRO Act, passing it in both chambers of Congress and getting Biden's signature is vital to our economic recovery. The PRO Act would protect and empower workers to exercise their freedom to organize and bargain.

The largest, most viable effort to unionize Amazon in many years began last summer not in a union stronghold like New York or Michigan, but at a Fairfield Inn outside of Birmingham, in the right-to-work state of Alabama. It was late in the summer and a group of employees from a nearby Amazon warehouse contacted an organizer in the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union. They were fed up, they said, with the way the online retailer tracked their productivity, and wanted to discuss unionizing.

“This executive order will close loopholes that allow agencies to sidestep Buy American requirements and increase the thresholds for domestic content,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in a statement. “This order is a good first step in revitalizing U.S. manufacturing, which [President Donald] Trump’s policies failed to do over the past four years,” Trumka said. The order will modify the rules for the Buy American program, reports the Associated Press, making it harder for contractors to qualify for a waiver and sell foreign-made goods to federal agencies.

Makaelah Murray, a student athlete at Howard University in Washington, D.C., is among the 2020 Union Plus Scholarship winners. Murray is a biology major at Howard and a member of the women’s soccer program. She graduated with honors from San Joaquin Delta College and aspires to become an orthopedic surgeon to help other athletes like her recover from their injuries. While at Delta, she completed, with distinction, the Leadership Education for Aspiring Physicians (LEAP) program at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

So America today needs more than anything solidarity and human dignity — the church's core teachings. The teaching that we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers, that we are not commodities whose value is determined by a flawed and arbitrary market, but human beings, souls, created in the image of God, and each of our worth is beyond price. And it is high time our nation's laws promoted solidarity and human dignity.