I am very happy to see you all here today. Storm the hill and take back the Congress for the American people and for the American workers! Never underestimate the power of your own voice. Nothing is more eloquent to a member of Congress than the voice of his or her own constituents. So just go in there and just preach and just tell them what it is, because we have some serious matters to deal with in regard to American workers.
All of you are so fortunate to be lead by the great labor leader Tom Buffenbarger. Under Tom's leadership, the International Association of Machinists is known worldwide as the union that represents men and women who build, repair and operate the machines that maintain the peace and sustain our prosperity.
There is no more patriotic American than Tom, no one prouder of his country, 100 percent committed to our Armed Forces and to insuring that America has the best-trained, best-equipped forces in the world.
In recent months, the American people have witnessed not only the bravery of our men and women in uniform, but also the critical role that American workers play in producing the machinery and equipment that help them do the job. Machinist members built the F-18 Hornets, the F-16 Falcons, Harriers and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, just to name a few, all of which were used in the Iraq war.
We are grateful to you for your service to your country and for helping to ensure that our service men and women are returning safely home. The noble service of our men and women in uniform reminds us in Congress that our mission is to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.
What kind of future do we want? We want a safe and prosperous America with good jobs and good wages. We want an America where every citizen has access to quality health care and every child receives a first class education.
This morning, I want to talk with you about how we can build that future. I cannot think of a better audience to meet this challenge. It is the working men and women of America who are the backbone of the country we cherish today. And that is you.
Just as we have responsibilities overseas, we have responsibilities at home.
Over the next 18 months, leading up to the next election, America will face a clear choice about the future of our country. A choice between the reckless economic policies of the Bush Administration and the responsible economic policies of the Democrats. A choice between the anti-union agenda of the Republicans and the pro-worker policies of the Democrats. A choice between the Republican plan to giving massive tax cuts to those who need it least, at the expense of those who we want to invest in--our children--and the Democrats priorities, which will benefit America's working families.
As Democrats, we will show the American people how our policies differ from the Republicans. At home and abroad, our highest priority is keeping Americans safe from the single greatest threat facing our nation -- the clear and present danger of terrorism. But just as we keep Americans physically safe, we must also keep them economically sound.
And, sadly, there is no better evidence of the economic distress in our country than the decline in domestic manufacturing jobs.
That is why two weeks ago, we all came together in my office, a meeting of the top Democratic leadership of the House and with the presidents of the major industrial unions, to discuss this crisis in manufacturing and the loss of good-paying union jobs. As a result, we have formed a joint task force to develop Democratic initiatives to combat this downward spiral in domestic production.
How can our country be secure if we are unable to provide for our most basic durable goods and transportation needs?
Manufacturing employment fell to 16.5 million workers in December 2002, its lowest level in 41 years. This accounts for more than 90 percent of jobs lost in the U.S. since March 2001. And this decline in domestic manufacturing impacts families and communities in every state in the Union.
We must reverse this trend, and adopt an agenda to revitalize industries that have been the heart of American strength and competitiveness. We must adopt trade policies that support our manufacturing sector, and not encourage companies to shop around the world for the cheapest labor markets, weakest environmental standards and harshest working conditions.
As part of this initiative, Democrats were proud to support a bill sponsored by my colleague from New York and longtime friend of labor, Charlie Rangel, that would provide tax incentives to keep good paying domestic manufacturing jobs in the United States.
We must do all we can to make sure American jobs stay in America.
As Democrats, we will also educate the public about the Republican record on the economy. The American people are seeing how President Bush turned the strongest economy in history into a weak, struggling economy.
Since day one, the Republicans have taken us in the wrong direction.
We are going in the wrong direction on job creation. We have 2.7 million less jobs today than when President Bush took office, the worst record of job creation since the Great Depression. There were fewer jobs but always an addition job. In President Clintons administration 22 million new jobs were created.
Almost nine million Americans are now unemployed, including nearly a quarter of a million airline and aerospace workers who have been laid off.
We are going in the wrong direction on unemployment benefits. Under this Administration, the unemployment rate has ballooned to 6 percent. Over the absolute refusal of the Republicans, Democrats in the House insisted that unemployment benefits be extended for airline workers displaced since September 11th.
And this week, House Democrats will yet again attempt to bring to the House floor a bill to extend unemployment insurance for the millions of Americans whose benefits will expire at the end of the month, and expand coverage for low-wage and part-time workers.
For every dollar spent on unemployment compensation, $1.73 is infused into the economy, because families spend the money for necessities. They immediately spend, injecting demand into the economy and creating jobs. So the extension of unemployment benefits creates jobs.
Every dollar spent for the Presidents proposal for tax-free dividends injects only 9 cents into the economy. Nine cents versus $1.73. Its a shame, its a tragedy, and we cannot let this happen. While the President lost 2.7 million jobs in his first two years with his failed economic plan, our plan is fair, fast acting, and fiscally responsible. And it will create one million new jobs this year.
Our economic growth and jobs plan provides tax cuts for working families, investments in small business, and supports the states during these difficult times. Democrats would direct billions of dollars for infrastructure investment to improve the security and safety of our highways, rails, airports and ports. Investing in our infrastructure will help us grow the economy by creating millions of badly needed, family-wage jobs immediately and billions of dollars in economic activity.
But we cant only grow the economy though with a jobless recovery that is totally unacceptable--we must also make sure that we are creating good paying jobs, with health care, and benefits, that can support Americas families--union jobs.
From the moment the Republicans assumed office, President Bush and anti-union Republicans in Congress have waged an all-out attack on American union workers. I agreed completely with AFL-CIO President John Sweeney when he said: This is the most anti-labor Administration since Hoover.
Across the board, the Bush Administration has attempted to deny workers the right to full union representation, whether they are airline workers, dockworkers, or government employees.
The Administration wants to cripple unions economically and politically by requiring them to itemize and report even the smallest expenses. This is their way of saying: 'We are going to bog you down so much in compliance. We are going to cost the union a billion dollars in paper work when you dont have the resources, the time, or the ability to fight for American working families.'
The Republicans are attempting to gut the collective bargaining rights of transportation unions under the Railway Labor Act by forcing workers to binding arbitration. But union workers right to vote on their contract is as fundamental as it gets. The union workers right to vote on their contract is non-negotiable.
One more thing, now the President wants to replace overtime with comp time. He wants to eliminate the 40-hour workweek and call it flexibility, which really means flexibility for the employer and lower wages for workers!
Its hard to believe, but were fighting some of the same battles that took place 100 years ago. We are going back one hundred years! We did not struggle through the 20th Century to watch the most basic protections for workers to be ripped away at the dawn of the 21st Century.
We have another vision of America.
And as House Democratic Leader, I pledge to you today--never again will Democrats go into an election without the public knowing very clearly what we stand for, how different we are from the Republicans, and what we are willing to fight for.
Democrats will be clear that we stand up and fight to create jobs and protect the fundamental American right to belong to a union.
We will stand up and fight to give unemployed workers the help they need - including relief for aviation workers. We will not simply bail out corporations while ignoring the workers who form the backbone of those industries. We will stand up and fight to protect the integrity of the 40-hour week.
Democrats are committed to a legislative agenda that supports workers right to organize, that rewards investment in America and that keeps American jobs where they belong--in America. Together, we can get this economy moving again.
Democrats stand with you. We always have, we always will, and we will deliver for American workers.
With your help, we will win back the House of Representatives and have a Democratic Speaker, the first woman. And we will take back the United States Senate for the Democrats.
And with your help we will take back the White House for the American
people and we will give a pink slip to George W. Bush!
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