The problem in the United States today is that too few people have too much money, asserted Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mineworkers of America. The mineworkers’ leader’s hard-hitting, humorously delivered remarks frequently had delegates laughing and applauding.
Beginning his remarks with praise for the union’s national officers, Roberts recalled the long association between UE and the UMWA that began with the organizing upsurge of the 1930s. "You are the closest thing remaining to those wonderful days of the CIO," he declared. Roberts called attention to how the UE and UMWA work together in the Labor Party. "Someday workers will have a real choice, instead of one of the lesser evils," he said.
Workers’ wage increases are viewed as inflationary — but not the big bucks pocketed by corporate CEOs. A worker earning $25,000 in 1994 who had received the same percentage increases as the average CEO would now earn $138,000. "The problem is not that we’ve been asking for too much," Roberts said. "We haven’t been asking for enough." The politicians who congratulated themselves for ending "welfare as we know it" should have "ended poverty as we know it," he said.
The labor movement needs to fight back, beginning with a demand for labor law reform, including the repeal of Taft-Hartley, he said. Unions must return to rallying and marching in the streets. "Moses didn’t send Pharaoh no e-mail or fax. He went to see Pharaoh, and that’s what we’ve got to do," the miners’ president said. "United we stand, divided we fall, a wrong to one is a wrong to all!"
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