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IBEW 2006 Convention Updates

Address of
To the
Cleveland, Ohio
September 8, 2006

I am glad that you have decided to participate in the conference; this is a very important election year for all of us you could say it could be a do or die for the trade union movement.

For me it is always a pleasure to greet our union's political conference. Some may call you political activists. But to me and to our International leadership, you -- are union activists -- in the best sense of that word because you understand power.  And you understand that politics, organizing and collective bargaining are interdependent parts in the anatomy of our nation’s labor movement.

It’s our collective bargaining and organizing muscle that enables us to gain new members and win good contracts.

But healthy muscles can't pull without strong tendons -- a body politic -- a system of laws that connect us to one another, to our movement and to our community.

And, brothers and sisters -- Corporate America has slashed at our tendons with the most potent, virulent, extremist right-wing political virus that our nation has ever seen.  If we don't begin to stop the spread of that virus this coming November, all of our efforts to build new IBEW strength and a better future for America's working families stand to be undermined.

November 2006 is about putting America and our labor movement onto the road of recovery from the sick politics of greed that have deformed and defiled the world's most powerful nation.  If you are angry and ready to work like there's no tomorrow, you're in the right place.

Pollsters talk about a tipping point.  Many of us thought that a majority of Americans were ready to tip the political scales on George W. Bush in 2004. We got pumped up on the early returns, -- believing that the chickens were coming home to roost for this administration that has turned the White House into a national monument of incompetence, arrogance and elitism.

Whether or not you believe that this administration led by George W. Bush duped a slim majority of Americans into voting against their best interests -- you woke up the next morning listening to Bush proclaim that a plurality of Americans supported his policies. Maybe you took a stiff drink.  Maybe you clenched your fist, slammed a wall or muttered "every dog has his day," No matter.  They were back.

Today -- pollsters are again talking about a tipping point, pointing to graphs that show the president's plurality drying up. This is causing big problems for Republican candidates in the Midterms who are afraid to be too closely connected to the president.  In fact -- many of them are acting like spoiled kids who run away from home for a few months -- but still phone home every week for money.

Brothers and sisters -- there's nothing like a good shot of the truth when any struggle reaches the tipping point.  I’m reminded of the words of Harry Truman when he was urged to give ‘em hell, he replied, “I tell the truth about the Congress, and they think its hell.”  It’s time for good -- old-fashioned truth telling.

You -- brothers and sisters -- are the leaders of
the IBEW's truth squad.

We will soon be in the late hours of an election that could change the course of our nation’s history.  And your first task leaving here is to recruit every member that you can in our effort remind working Americans who might have forgotten -- or who are confused -- about how their votes have a direct impact on all of our lives. If you do this work well--and I know that you will--the IBEW will play a major role in tipping our nation in the direction of change in November.

Next time you’re at the computer, try this.  Enter the word, "Failure" in Google's search engine; our first link is to President George W. Bush.  Now that's funny -- for about a minute-- until we think of the tragic human consequences this administration's policies. Try as Bush and his party will to reduce their campaign to some feel-good sound bites -- a few momentous events are drowning them out.

In fact -- we have witnessed unique moments where our national political debate moved beyond sound bites to real substance. The searing images of death in the floods of Hurricane Katrina caused millions of Americans to ponder where the line is between natural catastrophe and man-made policy failure. The administration's professed hatred of so-called "big government" and their history of appointing business-friendly hacks to replace dedicated civil servants were forever exposed with the words: "Heck of a job, Brownie."

Our national political debate moved beyond sound bites again when Congressman Jack Murtha called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.  Whatever you may believe about our presence in Iraq, I hope that you agree that Karl Rove and the Republicans went over the top when they questioned the patriotism of a Congressman who was both a veteran and a legendary supporter of our Armed Forces.

Remember when we picked up our newspapers before the 2004 election and read about traditional Democrats who were sticking with President Bush because they felt that he would keep America safe?  Two years later, we are reading about traditional Republicans who are deserting the President.

Is it any wonder?  This is a political party which continues to brag about economic opportunity -- even while the number one export from America's ports is empty containers bound for China.

Images of death on the bayou and the battlefield have been joined by those of retired Americans on ventilators and walkers who are being robbed of their medical insurance and forced into personal bankruptcy. They include some of our IBEW brothers and sisters.  The administration's answer to this travesty--- They passed a bankruptcy law written by the credit card companies to make it harder for working Americans to get out from under a growing load of debt.  I don't need to go on.  You have already indicated that you are angry and you should be.

It's too early to say whether this election will be one of those rare contests where concern about our nation trumps our party traditions -- but it could be. The arrogance of this administration seems to know no bounds.  When our employers slam the door on dialogue and take a "my way or the highway" approach, -- we organize on the job.  When our political leaders take the same tack, we owe it to ourselves and to all working families to organize politically.  And organize we will.

Over the past several months and weeks, many of the folks in this room have dedicated themselves to building the kind of infrastructure that will win on the ground in November. 

In May, Vice President Schantzen spoke for me and addressed the convocation of the Florida New Alliance and pledged the IBEW's support for a unified CLC and state federation per capita to help provide the funds to turn the Sunshine State around.

Last month -- I visited the Labor 2006 Battleground States Meeting in Chicago to throw IBEW's weight behind Labor 2006's hard-hitting 10-Point Plan.  I addressed the growing dynamic of early voting and the need to get more volunteers on the street and on the phone earlier than ever before.

And over this Labor Day weekend, I went to Lorain, Ohio, to join the AFL-CIO leadership in a get-out-the-vote kickoff rally.  If the spirit of that crowd was any indication -- working men and women are ready to throw the bums out.  They are ready for the truth; all they need is an organized effort.

Our commitment to political action this year is not hollow.  IBEW has appointed a national coordinator to help focus our people power in the places where we can make the greatest difference before November and in the years ahead.

I am confident, brothers and sisters -- that when we return home and link arms with our progressive allies, we will put America's working families back on the march to recovery. 

In the end -- it's all about power.  And this Brotherhood will never, ever surrender to those who would monopolize that power for the enrichment of the few at the tragic expense of America's workers.
Thank you and God bless you all for the work that you do.


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