Recap: 2024 Texas AFL-CIO COPE Convention

Texas AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Leonard Aguilar and Texas AFT President Zeph Capo on stage at the convention. Courtesy of Texas AFL-CIO.

This past Sunday and Monday, hundreds of delegates representing local unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO from across Texas convened in Austin for the 2024 Texas AFL-CIO COPE Convention.

COPE, the Committee on Political Education of the Texas AFL-CIO, plays a pivotal role as the political arm of the union by endorsing candidates and approving funding for campaigns that are committed to advancing workers’ rights and interests.

As we edge closer to landmark elections in 2024, the labor movement’s spirit at the convention was palpable, with members showing unwavering enthusiasm and determination to champion necessary change both within Texas and nationwide.

The convention kicked off with inspiring addresses from influential leaders. Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy emphasized the dichotomy between Texans’ favorable perception of unions and  relatively low union membership, urging delegates to leverage the labor movement’s momentum for electoral victories and growing union strength by organizing. U.S. Rep. Jasmine Crockett’s electrifying call to action underscored the urgency of the political moment, emphasizing teamwork in the upcoming elections.

Highlights included solidarity speeches, notably from Sandy Reding, President of the California Nurses Association. Her speech underscored the interconnected struggles of workers across sectors.

by Texas AFT staff. Left, ”Strategic Communications: ’Why are we saying that?’” and right, ”Issue-Based Campaigns: Leveraging Retiree Power.”

A series of workshops offered delegates insights into expanding union capacity, leveraging retiree power, developing worksite programs, strategic communications, and voter registration strategies. These sessions equipped members with the tools needed for grassroots mobilization and advocacy.

Texas AFT was well-represented in these workshops, with members of our Public Affairs and Strategic Communications teams offering two separate workshops due to the scope and successful outcomes of our work in the past year. Political Director Anthony Elmo and Communications Director Nicole Hill presented the workshop “Strategic Communications: ‘Why are we saying that?’”, while Public Affairs Director Patty Quinzi and Political Organizer Jami Vines presented the workshop “Issue-Based Campaigns: Leveraging Retiree Power.”

The convention also featured a momentous U.S. Senate debate, providing a platform for three front-running Democratic candidates to articulate their positions on labor issues and other areas of concern. As this debate is likely to be the only one held during the primary election cycle, it was a significant moment that placed the labor movement’s concerns front and center in the political dialogue. Texas AFT is grateful to state Rep. Carl Sherman, state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, and U.S. Rep. Colin Allred for participating in the debate and in the race to replace U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

Closing legislative panel at the Texas AFL-CIO Convention.

A standout feature of the convention was the legislative panel, expertly moderated by Texas AFL-CIO Director of Politics and Policy Emily Amps, which brought together state Reps. Erin Gámez (D-Brownsville), Venton Jones (D-Dallas), and Armando Walle (D-Houston). These legislators, known for their unwavering support of the labor movement, provided invaluable insights into both the achievements and challenges within the Texas Legislature. Their discussion spanned a wide array of topics, from celebrating legislative victories like paid parental leave, the first cost-of-living adjustment for retired teachers in decades, and enhanced post-natal Medicaid coverage, to confronting contentious issues such as the “Death Star” preemption bill, anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, and the manipulation of school funding increases by Gov. Greg Abbott’s voucher scheme. A particularly impactful moment was shared by Rep. Armando Walle, who recounted his fervent opposition to the “un-American” anti-immigrant bill SB 4 on the House floor, drawing national attention after it was recorded and posted on social media.

The convention saw the adoption of 11 resolutions, addressing a wide range of topics from workers’ rights to broader social and political issues, including a notable debate on a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, which ultimately passed. These resolutions underscore the AFL-CIO’s commitment not only to American workers’ rights but also to those worldwide.

The convention wasn’t just a series of meetings; it was a resounding call to action. Texas AFL-CIO leaders, including Secretary-Treasurer Leonard Aguilar and Texas AFT’s own President Zeph Capo, delivered speeches that underscored the critical nature of the upcoming elections for workers and the necessity of grassroots political engagement. Capo also reviewed the year in public education, including how our members’ mobilization defeated Abbott’s voucher scheme and how we are making progress on the challenges we continue to face.

The delegates voted to adopt the endorsements proposed by the recommendations committee toward the end of the convention, signaling the labor movement’s readiness to get to work supporting candidates who align with their values and goals. You can find a full list of the Texas AFL-CIO’s endorsements on its website.

As the convention concluded with the singing of “Solidarity Forever,” the message was clear: the Texas labor movement is poised for a pivotal role in the upcoming elections, armed with a renewed sense of purpose and unity.

Texas AFL-CIO staff and the countless volunteers who made the 2024 Texas AFL-CIO COPE Convention a success have laid the foundation for what promises to be a vigorous campaign season.

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