AFL-CIO General Board statement
The presidential election of 2004 may be the most important in our lifetimes, and the unions of the AFL-CIO are unified in our commitment to elect a president who will stand with and for working families.
Instead of moving forward toward an America of promise and opportunity for all, our country has moved backward over the past three years under the Bush administration.
America has a jobs crisis. Over the past three years we’ve lost 2.8 million good manufacturing jobs, more than in the preceding 22 years, and economists from across the political spectrum say many of those jobs aren’t coming back. Now analysts predict that as many as 14 million white-collar and high-tech jobs could be moved offshore by America’s largest, household-name corporations. Far too few new jobs are being created. And most of those that are being generated pay substantially less and provide neither health insurance workers can afford nor employer-funded pension benefits that will provide a secure retirement after a lifetime of work.
The result is that while the yachts of the wealthy and giant corporations are being lifted by a rising economic tide, the small boats of working families are being swamped by increased debt, stagnant wages and rising health care costs.
Today in America, 14.7 million workers are jobless, under-employed or have given up looking for work.
Today in America, 43.6 million people have no health insurance.
Today and every day in America, 4,227 people will file for personal bankruptcy, 6.8 million people who are working will still be poor and 11 million children will attend broken-down schools.
The middle class that made America great is being squeezed out of existence and we are rapidly becoming a nation divided between the rich and “everyone else.”
The Bush administration’s response to the plight of working families has been to pursue an ideological agenda rather than meaningful solutions. Giving tax breaks to large corporations and the wealthy instead of investing in things working families need, such as health care, better schools and job training. Negotiating more flawed trade policies that abandon workers and rewarding companies that export American jobs with tax breaks and government contracts instead of creating trade and tax policies that keep good jobs at home. Kicking the legs out from under 8 million workers by allowing their employers to take away their overtime pay rather than offering working people a steadying hand through extended unemployment benefits, a higher minimum wage and genuine immigration reform.
During the Democratic primary season, we’ve seen the debate over the Bush administration’s anti-working family stewardship raised to a new level, and we are indebted to the many great candidates for articulating the concerns of working families.
Today we are unified in our support of a presidential candidate, one who not only can take on President Bush, defeat him and turn our nation around, but who is all of the best things America has to offer.
Sen. John Kerry has lived a life of unselfish public service by standing up for working families throughout a distinguished political career and by presenting plans and policies that form a blueprint for rebuilding the progressive infrastructure of our country.
Sen. Kerry demonstrated he shares working families’ values and commitment to country when he volunteered for combat service in Vietnam, even despite misgivings about the conduct of that war. He showed us what the words, “my country, right or wrong,” really mean when he repeatedly offered his own life to save the lives of the men under his command.
He revealed his commitment to our values over a 20-year career in the U.S. Senate by devoting his time and energy to national security, foreign affairs and the concerns of America’s service men and women in uniform and by taking the lead in resolving the painful issue of Vietnam war POWs and MIAs. He took on corporate welfare, took stands to protect our environment and fought for early childhood education. He stood up to Newt Gingrich to save Medicare and Medicaid and took on the big drug companies to lower the price of prescription drugs.
Senator Kerry believes, as working people and our unions believe, that maintaining and creating good jobs must be our #1 national priority, that we should repeal tax breaks and loopholes that encourage corporations to export American jobs and that tax breaks for millionaires should take a back seat to schools, health care and investments in working families. He believes we need a powerful coordinated strategy to keep our industrial sector strong, that affordable health care is a right and not a privilege and that our federal minimum wage needs to be raised to a decent standard.
Senator Kerry also believes that every child deserves a decent education, every senior a secure retirement, every corporate criminal a stiff punishment, every person civil and human rights and every family a strong and secure America. He will work to maintain a strong and vibrant middle class so essential to preserving our democracy, and he will fight for the freedom of every worker to form and join a union in order to have a voice on the job and economic security.
Sen. Kerry has a 91 percent AFL-CIO lifetime voting record in favor of working families. He has pledged to reform NAFTA, to conduct an immediate review, using worker input, of all our trade agreements and to insist that workers’ rights and environmental protections be part our trade agreements. Equally important, he has demonstrated real leadership by running a powerful and positive campaign and gaining the trust and confidence of millions of Americans.
America needs John Kerry’s leadership as president of the United States.
The AFL-CIO wholeheartedly endorses Sen. John Kerry for president. We pledge to him and to the nation that we will run the most powerful campaign in the history of our movement—a campaign of, by and for America’s working families—to elect him in November.