Of Workers’ Rights and the Democratic Party

The hopes and dreams of the men and women who sent me to Congress are the stars by which I journey. Whenever there is an organizing campaign, a picket line to walk, jobs to save, working conditions to improve, laws to champion, I’m there. This is my purpose: To stand up and to speak out on behalf of those who have built this country and who want to rebuild this country. This is my passion: To raise up the rights of working people. Workers’ rights embody spiritual principles that sustain families, nourish the soul, and create peace. Workers’ rights are human rights. Workers’ rights are the key to protecting our democracy Labor has stood almost alone while corporations have cut wages and benefits, slashed working hours, tried to undermine wage and hour provisions, reneged on contracts, and jettisoned retirements through bankruptcy strategies. The clamor for corporate accountability calls for honesty in stating the numbers, and faithful custody of shareholder money, but there needs to be equal concern for those who created the wealth through their labor. Simply put, people have a right to: • • • • • The opportunity for a job. A safe workplace. Decent wages and benefits. Organize and be represented. Grieve about working conditions. • • • • • Collectively bargain and strike if needed. Be fairly compensated for injuries on the job. Sue if injured by negligent employers. Be secure in their pension and retirement benefits. Participate in the political process.

These basic rights ought to be inviolate in a democratic society. Just as there can be no true corporate accountability unless corporations are accountable to workers, so, too, can there be no accountability to workers unless workers’ rights are protected. At its founding, the Democratic Party understood these concepts. Today that’s not always the case. The Democratic Party in recent years has brought us NAFTA and the WTO. And the Democratic Party has refused to take the leadership on single-payer, not-for-profit, universal health care. As a result, we have seen our jobs shipped overseas, our factories shuttered, our ports threatened and our families endangered by imports of poison-tainted food and poison-painted toys. Job security is constantly threatened by outsourced and temporary workers, and cost-of-living increases have been bargained away in a desperate attempt to preserve ever-shrinking morsels of health insurance. The challenge facing organized labor today is to keep the Democratic Party honest, to understand that the Democratic Party needs labor more than labor needs the Democratic Party. Workers’ rights will not be protected unless the Democratic Party makes them the centerpiece of its legislative program. The Democratic Party must be challenged by Labor return to its roots and core values, to truly be the party of all the people. Thus the role of labor in Democratic primary politics is to send a message to the party leadership about its demands by proudly uniting around the candidate who best represents its interests, not try to please a lesser deserving candidate in the hopes that candidate will somehow change and become a union supporter if elected. I am but one of a handful of members of Congress who proudly carries an AFL-CIO membership card. My father was a Teamster. He worked hard all his life, then died with his first pension check uncashed in his pocket. I understand struggle and the need for solidarity. A Kucinich White House will be a house of labor. I have no corporate strings attached. I fear no evil. I am the candidate who will best represent you because I am one of you. Labor cannot continue to settle for half-hearted nominees or half-hearted measures that keep in place a system that is destroying our democracy, undermining our economy, threatening our security, and denying workers their rights. My first act in office will be to cancel NAFTA and the WTO. No other presidential candidate dares to say that. It is the restoration of the rights of workers that will put us at the dawn of a new political age. The rights of workers are core principles of an American Restoration. These aren’t mere political principles. These are timeless moral principles, about fairness, about equality, about justice. I stand on those principles in asking for your support.

Paid For by Kucinich for President 2008, PO Box 110180 Cleveland OH, 44111