When I was a younger man I marched in support of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. I am a union man. Proud and strong. No apologies. No surrender. No regrets. No retreat. While I am not honored to own a union card, I consider myself a union man. Now and forever.
The unions stand tall in the history of freedom. I was proud to stand with Solidarity in Poland in its hours of greatest crisis, with the same conviction that the heroic workers of Solidarity stand with the battling workers of Wisconsin and workers everywhere. When we battle for the rights of workers anywhere, we battle for the rights of workers everywhere. Collective bargaining, democracy and freedom are inseparable.
The unions have played a special role in creating prosperity in every corner of the world, where they stand up for the rights of workers, the creation of jobs and the rising tide that lifts all boats. Economic historians and statisticians prove the point. When unions flourish, prosperity rises, because more jobs and fair pay create stronger consumers and greater demand, which increases the profits of firms and the wealth of nations.
The Republican Party and its nominee for president once waged war against the auto recovery program of the president, which promised, and delivered, shared sacrifice and shared rewards for labor and business. When the program worked brilliantly the Republican nominee, who demeans the labor legacy of his father, then lied and tried to claim credit.
Today the Republican Party, led by its candidate for president, wages war against the jobs of those who serve with the police. Last Friday a triumphalist Mitt Romney, pouncing on what he considered a political opportunity, waved his arms with a glowing smirk while repeating his support for previous firings of police and promising to fire more police.
Today the Republican Party, led by its candidate for president, wages war against the jobs of firefighters. The triumphalist Romney, believing (wrongly) that he had found the golden key to power, told cheering partisans that he supports the past layoffs of those who save our neighbors from the deadly infernos of burning flames, and promises if elected to fire more of these heroic Americans.
Remember when a grateful and patriotic nation rose as one to applaud the indescribable valor of those who ran into burning buildings to save our families and neighbors after terrorists struck on that deadly September morning?
Today Mitt Romney, who ranked nearly last in the nation creating jobs as governor, lusts for the presidency. He seems joyous that many are jobless today. He celebrates their pain as his good fortune. He panders to the hatred of unions that his father deplored. He forgets that Ronald Reagan led the Screen Actors Guild. He treats the jobs of police and firefighters, and nurses and teachers, as the petty cash of his unprincipled ambition.
Today the Republican Party, led by its candidate for president, wages war against the jobs of teachers. American teachers are enormously trusted and deeply respected by overwhelming majorities of our people. They faithfully, diligently and wonderfully use the gifts God gave them to lift the lives of their students and the education of our children. They deserve the respect that was shown them by leaders and statesmen such as George Romney, not the contempt shown them by vulture politicians such as Mitt Romney.
Today the GOP wages war against programs that create jobs, policies that promote jobs, workers who desperately need jobs and women who want to be paid fairly when they have jobs. Today the GOP wages war against the jobs of police who protect our neighborhoods, firefighters who protect our homes, teachers who educate our children, nurses who tend our wounds, bargaining that protects their rights and earned pensions that protect their security.
I am a union man, and proud of it. Republicans who wage war against unions and jobs are waging war against American values and prosperity.
This column was originally published at The Hill.