MANCHESTER – Bernie Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont, joined labor leaders and their advocates yesterday in calling for a new prosperity based on government-funded investment in rebuilding the nation's roads, bridges, water systems and other infrastructure. The money would come from allowing tax breaks to expire and divert funds to these public works-style project, they said.
"Let's put people to work rebuilding America," Sanders told the more than 250 laborers, union members, politicians and aspiring office holders at yesterday's annual Labor Day Breakfast, hosted by the New Hampshire AFL-CIO.
Sanders also called for a radical revision of U.S. trade policies that resulted in the loss of American jobs to overseas.
Ed Cunningham, a member of CWA 1365, waves a flag outside the Labor Day Breakfast yesterday in Manchester.
"Tell me where ... you can buy products made in the United States of America?" Sanders asked in his keynote address.
Rather, American buy shirts made in Bangladesh by garment workers who recently saw their wages double to 21 cents an hour and compete against China-based Walmart stores where only about 1 percent of the American brand name products are manufactured here, he said.
"We all know, as Americans, we have a moral responsibility to do everything we can to uplift people throughout the world. But we don't have to do that by destroying the working class of the United States of America," Sanders said to a standing ovation.
"Unfettered trade is about forcing American workers to compete against desperate people all over the world," he added.
"We have got to tell corporate America that, if they want us to buy their products, which they certainly do, they have got to start manufacturing those products back here in America," Sanders said.
Electricians, plumbers, building tradesmen, shipyard workers, teachers, firefighters, priests and workers of every stripe were charged up, greeting Sanders with "You tell it, Bernie!" and prolonged applause.
New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie said "this morning is about the values the labor movement embraces.
"This is about good jobs. It's about rebuilding America," MacKenzie added.
The celebration was part tribute to labor and part campaign rally for the all-Democratic slate of politicians who sat at the head table and throughout the St. George Greek Orthodox Church hall, many of whom are running for election this fall.
The crowd warmly greeted Gov. John Lynch as a friend of labor who supported laws to bar improper classification of workers as independent contractors, bars companies from laying off workers without proper notice, raised the minimum age and launching a pilot program that allows the state to evaluate whether companies offer sustainable wages, an apprenticeship program and life insurance when awarding contracts to bidders.
Citing his successes, Lynch said he is proud the state's unemployment rate is 40 percent below the national average and the high school dropout rate 30 percent to 1.7 percent.
"Statistics don't mean much to the worker who does not have a job. And I will not be satisfied, none of us should be satisfied, until every worker who wants a job has a job here in New Hampshire," the governor said to a standing ovation.
New Hampshire GOP Communications Director Ryan Williams released a written statement about remarks made at yesterday's breakfast.
"Democrats control every lever of power in Washington and Concord, yet they have failed to address our economic challenges," he said. "Instead of creating jobs, Democrats have supported a reckless agenda that has resulted in skyrocketing unemployment and $13 trillion in debt. Given their abysmal track record, it's obvious that Democrats are incapable of proposing a single idea that will actually help the middle class and put New Hampshire families back to work."