Worker-friendly candidates deserve our support

Newton B. Jones, International President

Opponents seek to reverse union progress

OVER THE LAST two years, the Democrat-controlled Congress and the Obama administration have made enormous progress on behalf of American workers. That progress has not come easy. In fact, Republicans have repeatedly attempted to block much-needed reforms, and they have obstructed Democratic initiatives designed to save jobs and rescue the economy.

Now, as we approach the midterm elections, an anti-incumbent fervor has blinded many Americans to the reality of what workers have gained. Pro-worker politicians at federal and state levels face tough elections Nov. 2 as voters express their fears and frustration over a stubborn economy.

Our friends in Congress and in state offices deserve our support. They have stood up for working people and at times have placed their own careers in jeopardy in order to do the right thing. It is a mistake to think the anti-worker politicians who got us into this mess will change their ways and work to get us out.

Workers risk losing key gains

THE SWEEPING CHANGES enacted by Congress and the Obama administration have already benefited working people, including Boilermakers and their families, and raised hope that the middle class — so long neglected — can be rebuilt. Consider just a few of these gains:

  • Loan guarantees to build new nuclear power plants, creating jobs for construction Boilermakers.
  • Major new investments in advanced carbon capture and sequestration technology to promote the continued use of coal.
  • New funding for MSHA to step up safety and health enforcement for miners and railroad workers.
  • Additional OSHA funding to protect workers in other industries.
  • Presidential support for project labor agreements (reversing an earlier Bush ban on PLAs)
  • Wall Street reform to protect investments — including union pensions — from future reckless behavior by big banks.
  • Health care reform that will ensure nearly all Americans are covered and that will help employers who cover their workers be more competitive with those who do not.
  • A union-friendly Secretary of Labor (Hilda Solis) as well as appointments involving strong labor supporters to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, the National Labor Relations Board, and other key agencies.
  • Extension of unemployment benefits to help millions of Americans (including many of our members) who have lost their jobs due to the economic downturn, offshoring, and unfair trade practices.

It took incredible commitment and political courage to pass health care reform — a goal of every Democratic president since Harry Truman. Likewise, the stimulus bill involved great political risk. Those measures were pushed through in the face of withering attacks by Republicans and relentless obstructionism — not because they were easy or popular, but because they were necessary.

Anti-incumbent fervor has blinded many to what workers have gained.

Without question, an anti-worker Congress would seek to reverse many of these gains. Some Republican candidates have even made repealing health care reform part of their campaign platform, and a few are campaigning to phase out Social Security and Medicare.

Labor foes created this mess

IN THEIR FRUSTRATION and anxiety, many voters believe that if they can just change the party in power things will be better. But it is the Republican Party and their allies who are most responsible for the economic crisis.

Republicans for years have resisted regulating Wall Street banks. Left unfettered, Wall Street engaged in reckless, shadowy schemes that brought our economy down and led to a worldwide recession.

Republicans have championed “free trade” policies that have shut down 50,000 manufacturing plants and cost American workers 5.5 million manufacturing jobs in the past 10 years.

Republicans have resisted making fundamental changes to our broken health care system, even while costs spiraled out of control, leading to countless bankruptcies for average Americans and a financial strain for businesses.

Republicans (and some “Blue Dog” Democrats) have supported tax breaks for the rich, even as the middle class shrinks and wealth piles up for a minority of Americans at the very top of the economic ladder.

These are ongoing, long-term positions held predominantly by Republicans. They are at the root of the mess we find ourselves in today. It is unrealistic to think that Republicans will suddenly give up these positions should they become the new party in power.

Recent actions show direction our opponents will take

LABOR FOES HAVE tipped their hands about what they believe and what they truly want going forward. Most Republicans supported the $700 billion Wall Street bailout following the economic crash — yet not a single one voted for the stimulus bill that provided some relief for working families. And when Chrysler and GM sought money to avoid bankruptcies, anti-worker politicians blamed union workers for the automakers’ plight and argued that those companies should be allowed to go under.

Every pro-worker candidate we place in office is a voice for our future.

Blaming unions for the economic crisis continues to this day. Conservatives decry the fact that working people are able to retire with secure pensions and with dignity — even while many CEOs rake in enormous bonuses, stock options, and superstar salaries. These are the same folks who now demand that Wall Street continue to operate with minimal regulation, despite the fact that it was Wall Street that precipitated the economic collapse in the first place through its reckless and unregulated dealings.

These are the same people who demonize unions and oppose key laws and practices meant to preserve good jobs, including the Jones Act, Davis-Bacon, and project labor agreements.

These are the same people who support unfair trade agreements that hurt Americans and have cost us millions of jobs.

And these are the same people who attack and mischaracterize the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that would make it easier and simpler for workers to organize a union.

Let’s work to keep the gains we’ve made

IT IS COMMON for the party in power to lose seats during midterm congressional elections. And the economic crisis has compounded the uneasiness many Americans feel. But giving control of Congress back to the party that led us into the economic collapse would be a disaster. The Republicans have suggested no new approaches. Instead, they are calling for a replay of the same policies that have failed American workers and failed our economic system. The initiatives Congress and the president have implemented over the last few years need time to take effect.

Labor must step up and support those who have sought to protect our interests and the interests of all working Americans. Please give serious consideration to the candidate recommendations on pages 8 & 9.

Every pro-worker candidate we place in office is a voice for our future.