Use Your Vote To Tell Congress That Working Families Matter

Charles W. Jones, International President Emeritus

We can't outspend corporations — but we can outvote them

IT'S ELECTION TIME again in the United States — time to give Congress their report card. Election day is the best opportunity working families have to send a message to Washington that our lives matter.

What we do matters. We matter.

For nearly two years now, the Bush administration and the Republican-dominated House of Representatives have been acting as though working people are unimportant. They have insulted and injured us, while passing legislation written by lobbyists for large corporations.

Just look at some of their most egregious insults to American workers over the past few months:

  1. They blocked passage of a comprehensive Medicare prescription drug benefit at the request of powerful pharmaceutical companies, who immediately rewarded them with millions of dollars in campaign donations

  2. They passed fast-track trade authority, opening the door for President Bush to expand the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to Central and South America

  3. They blocked efforts for meaningful pension reform, opting to allow corporations to continue to raid employee pension funds and 401(k)s.

  4. They passed a $10 billion bailout for the airline industry, not a penny of which went to the displaced workers

  5. They passed a corporate wish-list of tax breaks and subsidies for Big Business, huge tax cuts for millionaires, and nothing for workers who lost their jobs as a result of Sept. 11

  6. They passed a law barring employees of the Department of Homeland Security from joining unions.

This last one is enough to make your blood boil. The Department of Homeland Security is new, but the work its employees will do is not. All Bush has done is take agencies from several other departments and reorganize them under this umbrella.

Over 50,000 of those federal employees are currently represented by unions. Another 120,000 are protected by civil service regulations.

But Bush wants to keep all worker protections out of his "new" department — and the Republican-dominated House of Representatives wants to help him do it. The authorization bill they passed in July strips these 170,000 workers of all worker protections.

Bush's implication — underscored by the Republican leadership in both the House and the Senate — is that unions are antithetical to domestic security. If these workers are allowed to join unions, they will be unable to do their job of keeping our nation safe.

This bill is an insult to every patriotic American union member.

It is a double insult to the millions of union members who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces — especially those who served during war time.

And it is an insult beyond measure to the hundreds of union members who died trying to save lives in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.

As an insult, the House-passed homeland security bill is beyond compare.

But it is worse than an insult. It is an injury.

This bill strips 50,000 federal employees of their right to collective bargaining.

And it is just one of dozens of measures passed by the House in the past two years that injures working families. When you begin to catalog the injuries workers have suffered or will suffer if bills passed by the House are made into law, you quickly see that working families do not matter much in their scheme of things.

We must act now to change that. We must vote out of office the representatives who are attacking working families. We must let Congress know that the majority of Americans work for a living, and Congress must pass laws that benefit working families.

Corporations may give them big campaign donations. High-paid lobbyists may wine them and dine them. But if they want to be re-elected, they need to pass legislation that benefits the majority of Americans — not the super-rich minority.

Many times in recent years, workers have demonstrated that we can elect our candidates when we work together. In 1998 and again in 2000, voters from union households had a major impact on races at all levels.

This year, we can do even better — if we unite behind those candidates we know will support our agenda.

Candidates who support trade laws that benefit our people — not just the multinational corporations.

Candidates who will ensure that American workers have good jobs and safe workplaces.

Candidates who will safeguard Social Security and Medicare.

Candidates who will hold corporations responsible when they defraud investors and their employees, then try to use bankruptcy laws to protect the fortunes they've stolen.

Candidates who will ensure that workers and retirees can afford good health care and prescription drugs.

And most important of all — candidates who will guarantee that workers have the freedom to join a union.

It is an uphill battle. Corporations and the rich can outspend us. They control the media. They can give huge sums to buy third-party ads that skirt campaign finance laws.

But in the final analysis, we still have more votes than they do. By voting as a bloc, we can win.

Do your part on election day.

Vote for the candidates endorsed by your union.

United, we can make a difference!