Political action can protect our jobs, but only if we vote — and you can't vote unless you register
When I see what has happened to working families in the United States since George W. Bush became president, I am reminded of one of his own sound bites: "Shock and awe." I am shocked and awed by how much damage this president has done to the lives of working families in fewer than three years in office. Since Bush took the oath of office, our nation has lost more than three million jobs.
That's over 2,700 jobs lost every day of the week - two jobs a minute. Bush has the worst job-creation record of any president since Herbert Hoover. Millions more will lose their jobs if Bush's Free Trade Area of the Americas goes through. It will expand NAFTA to cover all of North and South America. And it isn't just jobs that workers have lost under Bush. Millions have lost their health care insurance because Bush will not do anything about rising health care costs and insurance premiums. Millions of workers' pensions have been devastated by corporate abuses that the White House ignores. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation says more than half of the 32,500 company-sponsored pensions are underfunded to the tune of $400 billion, threatening the retirement income of 44 million workers.
Eight million workers will lose their overtime pay because of Bush's rule changes. Both houses of Congress voted to stop them, but Bush vowed to veto the labor appropriations bill if it protects overtime pay for workers. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have lost their right to union representation because Bush convinced a terrorized Congress that union workers threaten national security. Millions more have lost their voice in the Department of Labor because Bush packed the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, and other key positions with anti-worker zealots.
Millions of workers have lost federal safety protections because Bush has cut funding for enforcement of federal safety laws, preferring to allow companies to regulate themselves. Millions of retirees will eventually lose their guaranteed Medicare coverage if Bush's prescription drug benefit plan becomes law. It includes provisions that turn Medicare over to private insurance companies in 2010. And our federal budget lost $3 trillion when he passed his tax cuts for the rich and politically connected.
This last is the worst loss of all, because it threatens not just today's workers, but tomorrow's workers: our children. Over the next 10 years, the Bush tax cuts will add $2.3 trillion to our national debt. And that is the best case scenario, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Even as Congress slashes spending on much-needed programs such as college grants, public health care, and construction of housing for military families, the debt continues to grow. Our nation cannot afford another four years of George W. Bush. We must vote him out of office in 2004. And we can do it, if all working families register and vote.
Working people outnumber the wealthy. Corporations employ more hourly wage workers than managers. More Americans work for a living and rely on their wages to pay their bills than live off investments or own businesses. No matter how you stack it, workers have a clear advantage when it comes to sheer numbers of votes. If all working families vote for candidates who will look out for our interests, we can have a powerful impact on the laws that come out of Washington and our state legislatures. But if you're not registered, you can't vote, and a recent survey of all Boilermakers shows that thousands of our members are not registered to vote.
The numbers are discouraging. In at least eight states, fewer than one in three members is registered to vote. With participation that low, we cannot influence elections. Only 10 states can boast that more than half of their Boilermaker members are registered to vote. That's not good enough. We need all our members registered in every state. Living in a democracy means taking responsibility for the government we live under. Our votes determine who makes the laws, who enforces them, and who judges whether they are being created and enforced according to the rights granted in the Constitution.
Union members take more responsibility on their jobs than most other workers. We are the ones who stand up together and demand a fair deal from the boss, who sit down and negotiate the terms under which we work. We need to stand up and be counted on election day, too. We need to take responsibility for who is in the White House, who is in Congress, and who holds all those local seats that affect our lives every day. Over the next few weeks, I will send a letter to every member explaining why I believe we should be an important part of this next election and explaining how you can help. I urge you to read that letter carefully and take appropriate action.
If you think your vote makes no difference, think about this: Florida's official count in 2000 gave Bush that state - and the presidency - by only 930 votes. Now, only 29 percent of Florida's Boilermakers are registered to vote. Would the outcome of the election have been different if all of them had been registered and took their families with them to the polls? We will never know. But when the winner of the fourth largest state in the nation is decided by fewer than 1,000 votes, I have to believe that a strong showing by our members and their families can make a world of difference for American working families. And for the future of America.
Register and vote.