UFCW President Marc Perrone addresses the 2015 Virginia AFL-CIO convention.

UFCW President Marc Perrone addresses the 2015 Virginia AFL-CIO convention.

Today, labor unions from across the state of Virginia gathered in Williamsburg for the annual AFL-CIO convention. Unions representing electricians, grocery clerks, steelworkers, nurses, teachers and more have gathered for two days to develop bold new strategies for workers in Virginia.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone addressed the delegates and outlined his vision for expanding and strengthening the nation’s largest grocery retail union.

At a time when nationwide union membership is in decline, Mr. Perrone placed a strong emphasis on growth. “In order to protect our family, we have to grow. We have to become stronger as a family. Organizing is the best work we can do as a union,” said Mr. Perrone, who has spent his career as an organizer.

Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe opened the convention, noting his strong track record in support of labor, including vetoing 27 pieces of anti-worker legislation in his tenure.

But with an election around the corner, the governor was quick to appeal to the attendees to keep the heat on through election day. In order to expand Medicaid to 400,000 Virginia residents, “we still need one more senate seat folks,” said the governor.

Over the next two days, strategies to win elections and curtail the declining union membership are top of the agenda. But after Virginia labor unions were successfully able to sweep primaries throughout the state, attendees had a strong sense of optimism for the future of the right-to-work state. As President Perrone noted, “our demise isn’t what you think it may be.”