Thousands of workers took part at a Capitol Hill rally in support of legislation to create an easier path for workers to win union representation. "Since the formation of our nation more than 200 years ago, working people have led the fight to improve the quality of life for all Americans, and that is what the Employee Free Choice Act is all about," Senator Bernie Sanders told the crowd.
When only the wealthy were allowed to vote, workers were successful in their demand for universal suffrage and a more democratic society. When tiny children were forced to work in the factories and fields, it was the working people of our country who put an end to abusive child labor and who fought for quality public education. When bosses refused to negotiate with their employees and fired them for standing up for their rights, workers pushed Congress into passing legislation which guaranteed all people the right to organize unions.
The list goes on and on. Social Security, the minimum wage, the eight-hour day, Medicare and Medicaid, affordable housing - are just a few of the victories that workers have won over the years thanks in large part to the union movement. But, despite all the hard-earned victories won by working people in the past, the struggle continues.
The fact of the matter is there is a war going on in America today. And, I'm not talking about the War in Iraq or the War in Afghanistan. I'm talking about a war against the American middle class, the American standard of living, and indeed the American dream itself.
And, just like the War in Iraq, when it comes to the economy, the President and those in his Administration are simply not telling the truth.
Since George W. Bush became President, a record number of billionaires have been created, while median income for working-age families has declined each and every year; 3 million good-paying manufacturing jobs have been lost; median household debt has skyrocketed; and, home foreclosures are at their highest level in 50 years.
The truth is workers today are often working longer hours for lower wages than they did 25 years ago.
What can we do about all of this?
First, we must pass the Employee Free Choice Act to make it easier for workers to join unions. Union workers make about 30 percent more than non-union employees. Union workers are much more likely to have a decent pension and health care benefits than non-union workers. Clearly, this is something that is vitally important to restoring the middle class in the United States today.
We must also end our disastrous unfettered free trade policy which is basically telling corporate America: leave the United States of America, go to China, go to Mexico, go to some desperate Third World country where people are paid pennies an hour. That is what our trade policy encourages them to do, and that is what we have got to change.
The reality is that NAFTA has failed, our membership in the World Trade Organization has failed, and perhaps, above all, Permanent Normal Trade relations with China has failed.
In addition, when we talk about strengthening the middle class, we have got to talk about how our healthcare system is disintegrating. Since the president has been in office, nearly 7 million Americans have lost their health insurance and millions more are under-insured.
We have got to make healthcare a right of citizenship for every man, woman and child in this country by enacting a national, universal healthcare program.
Working together, we can once again expand the middle class in this country and keep the American Dream alive for our children and grandchildren. That is what America is supposed to be about. I look forward to working with all of you to make this a reality.