The Electrical Worker online
September 2012

From the Officers
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Building a Movement for Change

In the midst of the 1992 presidential election, Bill Clinton's campaign manager James Carville came up with one of the most famous catch phrases in American political history: "It's the economy, stupid."

Now, 20 years later, Carville is back with a slightly modified version of his phrase, which serves as the title of his newest book, co-authored with former Clinton pollster Stanley Greenberg: "It's the Middle Class, Stupid."

Once again, Carville is spot on.

What we're facing is not just another recession, but a full-on crisis of the American dream, a crystallization of all the bad trends that have been brewing in the economy for the last 30 years. Three decades of declining wages, union busting, soaring student debt, bankrupt pensions, outsourced jobs and tax rates that favor the rich have created a situation where the very future of the middle class is at risk.

The social compact we grew up with — the idea that if you get an education and work hard, you could make it in America and provide a decent future for your children — is on life support.

If we cherish this country and the opportunities it gave us, we must renew that compact. And to do so we need a movement — in the streets, in the workplace and at the ballot box.

That's why we were in Philadelphia Aug. 11. Workers Stand for America brought together union and nonunion workers calling for good jobs at a living wage. We had retirees concerned about their children's (and their own) economic security. We had young people risking it all to exercise their right to a voice on the job. And we had veterans standing up against laws that threaten their inalienable right to vote.

They were there to add their name to America's Second Bill of Rights, which would entitle every American to decent work, education, medical care and retirement security.

But most of all, we went to Philadelphia because it's time to start a movement — a movement to save the middle class. From the abolitionists in the 19th century to the women's and civil rights movements in the 20th, Americans have shown time and time again that it's possible for regular people to change society for the better.

Without real economic opportunity and the chance to get a decent education and health care, without the security that comes from knowing that old age won't mean poverty, without the right to speak out and make your voice heard — whether at the ballot box or the workplace — then our democracy that generations of Americans gave their lives for is all but dead.

Aug. 11 was only the first step toward putting this country back on track. We need more protests, more rallies and more letters to the editor. And we have to take that energy we saw in the streets of Philly and channel it to every single precinct and congressional district in the nation — from Alaska to Florida.

Elections alone aren't enough. But just imagine where this country will be if people like Mitt Romney win on Nov. 6.

Republican presidential nominee Romney has made clear where he stands: on the side of the wealthiest Americans and Wall Street special interests. His economic program consists of more tax breaks for the wealthiest and tax hikes for those in the middle. He's promised that on his first day in office he will outlaw federal project labor agreements and gut the Davis-Bacon Act, driving down wages for construction workers.

He wants to slash investments in industrial infrastructure, alternative energy, and research and development funds used to boost America manufacturing.

He and his running mate Paul Ryan want to essentially privatize Social Security and terminate Medicare, while slashing unemployment insurance for millions of out-of-work Americans.

Just do the math. To pay for Romney's massive tax cuts for the rich, the money needs to come from somewhere if we are going to pay down the federal debt. And guess who's going to have to foot the bill?

It is a recipe for lower wages, fewer jobs, more outsourcing and more money flowing out of the pockets of working families and into offshore bank accounts.

But don't take our word for it. Take a good look at where the candidates stand — from the statehouse on up. Don't vote out of anger and tradition. Do your homework and ask yourself: "As a worker and union member, which person will do more for me and my family?"

But most of all, get active. Politics isn't something reserved just for Nov. 6. Turn off the attack ads on TV and have real discussions with your family and neighbors about what you can do to restore the middle class and save the American dream for generations to come.

Let's keep the spirit of Aug. 11 alive.

Edwin D. Hill

Edwin D. Hill
International President

Salvatore J. Chilia

Salvatore J. Chilia
International Secretary-Treasurer