Vermont Congressman Bernie
Sanders describes UE as ‘one of the great unions.’ Seated behind him
is UE Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark.
The entire UE delegation met on Capitol Hill with two of
the staunchest allies of working people in Washington, U.S.
Representatives Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Dennis Kucinich
(D., Ohio) — who were equally pleased to see allies.
The concerns of working people are not adequately
represented in Congress, Kucinich said.
"The system can work — but we must make it
work," Kucinich told them. "Your presence makes a
Born and raised in inner-city Cleveland (and the city’s
former mayor), Kucinich said, "I haven’t forgotten where I came
from." He chairs the 55-member House Progressive Caucus, dedicated
to real tax reform, defense of Social Security and labor and
environmental protections in trade agreements.
FIGHT FAST TRACK
Dennis Kucinich (D., Ohio) addresses the Conference, as did Rep.
Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.). Both Members of Congress, leaders of the
House Progressive Caucus, have compiled outstanding records in
defense of working people. UE members showed their appreciation to
The Cleveland Congressman warned that "we could be
looking at fast track (negotiating authority) soon," and encouraged
union members to put up a fight to ensure that there be no trade deals
without defense of human and labor rights and the environment. In
Seattle in November 1999 protests raised the consciousness of the
country, and [did so] again in Quebec in April 2001, he said.
"People around the world depend on us to take a stand a stand.
"There’s going to be a new debate on industrial policy, and you’re
going to lead it, and I’m going to work with you," Kucinich said.
Kucinich proudly displayed his union card — he belongs
to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees — and
declared with a grin, "don’t leave home without it!"
the seat of power — Liz Blatt tries out Rep. Bernie Sanders’s
chair while posing with Annette Vachon and Pat Foley and Sanders
aide Dan O’Grady. The three UE members are from Local 221 in
Burlington; the aide to Vermont’s pro-labor Congressman is a
former union staffer.
No stranger to UE audiences, Sanders gained a standing
ovation simply by walking into the House hearing room where the union
members had gathered. His reputation is well-deserved, as Dir. of Org. Bob
Kingsley explained in introducing the Vermont Congressman. In
support of new UE members fighting for a first contract, Sanders held a
hearing giving the workers at Berlin Health and Rehabilitation the
opportunity to describe their conditions, and hosted a support dinner
that raised more than $1,000 for the workers’ struggle.
Typically, Sanders began his remarks by praising the
Berlin workers for having the courage to organize and become the first
nursing home workers in Vermont to have a union. "It’s a disgrace
that nursing home workers saw an increase in their wages only when
Vermont raised the minimum wage," he said. The treatment of home
residents is also a disgrace, added Sanders, pointing out that the
workers are fighting for the residents as well as their own families.
"Their dedication is enormously impressive," he declared.
Sanders sharply criticized the unequal share of benefits
from the recent economic boom and the decline in the quality of jobs and
"The booming economy should have meant higher wages
and fewer hours," he said. The fact that it didn’t probably had
something to do with the huge contributions both parties get from the
very wealthy, Sanders suggested.
The primary issue before Congress is that 43 percent of
the proposed tax breaks will go to 1 percent of the population, Vermont’s
independent representative said.
Sanders called for a revival of democracy, including
campaign finance reform, greater participation in the political process,
a stronger union movement, universal health care and a fair tax system.
He got another standing ovation.
Defending Public Education
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