By Tom Conway
International Vice President
Democrat Supports Union Choice, Health Care Reform
During 7 ½ years of the George W. Bush presidency, one out of every five workers in manufacturing – 3.5 million all together – lost their jobs and their ticket to the American dream.
In contrast, Democrat Sen. Barack Obama pledges to rebuild industry, and with it our struggling middle class, by pumping billions of dollars into clean energy technologies, innovation incentives and the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.
Like John Edwards, our initial choice for president, Obama would make health care coverage more universal and strongly supports the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would free workers to choose a union without employer intimidation.
Obama believes, as do both John Edwards and Senator Hillary Clinton, that if you work hard, you should be able to count on a job that pays the bills, provides health care for when you get sick, a pension when you retire, a home for your family and an education for your children so they can fulfill their potential.
Commitment to working people
We gave a strong endorsement to Edwards when the primary contests began last year because of his deep commitment to working people and our shared beliefs. His support of EFCA and health care reform were widely shared by our members.
Before he left the race, Edwards was a passionate voice for a campaign that made this nation focus on what matters: lifting up this country and its citizens. Obama has picked up that banner.
When Edwards endorsed Obama for president as the primary contests were winding down in May, the USW once again found itself in agreement with him. The union’s International Executive Board voted unanimously to endorse Obama to be the next president.
“Senator Obama’s call for a significant change of direction amounts to far more than a compelling rallying cry,” International President Leo W. Gerard said. “It is buttressed by his record of consistent support for workers, by his call for sweeping changes to our health care system, by his unflinching support for the Employee Free Choice Act, and by his insistence that America’s trade policies must, first and foremost, serve the interests of America’s working families.”
Reforming trade policies
The specifics of the plan include substantial economic incentives and reforming America’s trade policies to ensure our workers can compete on a level playing field and create good jobs at home and real markets for American products abroad.
Obama would end the Bush-McCain policy of giving tax breaks to the companies that ship our jobs overseas and, instead, give those tax breaks to companies that create good-paying jobs in the United States. Trade deals, he believes, must include enforceable provisions to protect unions’ rights to organize and bargain collectively – a significant difference from current practice.
“The fight for American manufacturing is the fight for America’s future, Obama says, “and I believe that’s a fight this country will win.”
Central to Obama’s manufacturing revival plan is a $150- billion clean technologies venture capital fund to promote and develop clean energy technologies. He projects those technologies could create up to five million new jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced.
“The first part of this agenda is investing in clean energy – because that isn’t just how we’ll get gas prices under control, combat climate change, and free ourselves from the tyranny of oil;” Obama said. “It’s also how we’ll expand American manufacturing, create quality jobs, and grow our economy.”
Rebuilding America, revitalizing manufacturing
Obama’s plans also include a $60 billion fund to rebuild roads, bridges, transit systems and other infrastructure and a $1- billion-a-year start-up fund system for small and mid-sized manufacturers to convert to clean technologies.
Aiming help at automobile-dependent states like Michigan and Ohio, among others, Obama would also promote advanced vehicle technology and provide incentives for domestic auto makers to retool their plants to produce these new fuel-efficient vehicles. This fund could, for example, help American companies build batteries for plug-in hybrid vehicles so we don’t have to buy them from abroad.
He proposes an Advanced Manufacturing Fund that would identify and invest in the most compelling advanced manufacturing strategies in places that have been hard hit by the decline in manufacturing.
Rather than slashing funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership as the Bush Administration did, Obama said he would double it. The program helped create and protect over 50,000 jobs in 2006 alone, and has helped to increase the productivity of small and midsize manufacturers by up to 16%.
“That’s the kind of smart investment that will help us rebuild American manufacturing and make America more competitive,” Obama said.
To ensure our competitiveness over the longer term, Obama would invest in science and math education for our children from kindergarten through graduate school and find a solution to the health care crisis that has left 47 million Americans without health insurance and millions more struggling to pay rising costs.
In all, Obama plans to revitalize manufacturing and build job growth by advancing a clean energy economy while providing for universal health care offer a choice between real change and more of the same failed Bush policies that have done real harm to American workers in manufacturing over the last eight years.
“For the sake of our families, our economy, and our leadership in the world,” he said, “we have to renew the promise of American manufacturing.”
Posted June 29, 2008 at 11:05 am, in From USW International Officers