Illinois Speaker of the House of Representatives Emanuel “Chris” Welch fired up the crowd on Wednesday morning with a speech on the importance of unions and the strength of the IBEW.

Illinois Speaker of the House of Representatives Emanuel “Chris” Welch delivered a rousing speech that fired up the crowd on Wednesday morning.

‘What an honor it is to be here,” Welch said. “I can just feel the excitement in the room.”

Welch, the first Black lawmaker to hold the position of speaker, talked about the importance of unions and collective bargaining and the strong role that the IBEW has played in Illinois.

“What I cherish about the IBEW is your pride in union heritage and the firm belief in the in the institutions of democracy in the workplace,” he said.

He also complimented attendees on not being strangers to hard work and sacrifice.

“You literally keep the world running,” he said.

Without unions, Welch said, employees would have little to no say in wages, benefits, working conditions and workplace safety.

“The freedom for workers to join together in union is a fundamental right that should always be protected,” he said.

Welch told the crowd that, thanks to pro-union policy makers, Illinois was able to ban a right-to-work initiative at the local level.

“Do you agree with me that right-to-work is wrong for America?” he asked the crowd, which responded in kind with cheers.

Welch praised the hard work of the IBEW in getting legislation passed to preserve the state’s nuclear jobs among other initiatives.

“In Illinois our relationship with the IBEW is strong,” he said. “We have a symbiotic relationship that helps us drive our state forward.”

Welch also reminded the room of the importance of being at the table because if you’re not, you’re probably on the menu.

“Keep pulling up those to chairs to the collective bargaining table,” he said. “We need you at the table, we need your voice, we need you to stay visible, we need you to stay proud and we need you stay alive, because the labor movement is a win for the people.”