Labor Day traditionally marks the start of the election season. This year is certainly no different, but the stakes are much higher than they've been in a long time. The economy is in trouble, unemployment is high, bankruptcies are up, and families are finding their budgets crimped by rising gas, food and utility costs. The media reports that even college students are turning to food stamps to make ends meet and sky-rocketing food prices are forcing more and more people to rely on charity food pantries to feed their families.
It's true that the economic indicators paint a gloomy picture, yet workers have much to be proud of and even to celebrate. Although largely unheralded and unseen, most workers contribute to their workplaces and communities. AFSCME members in particular can take pride in doing the work that makes America happen.
Every day, in towns, cities, suburbs and exurbs across our nation, AFSCME members are driving school buses, working in hospitals, caring for children, staffing 911 call centers, fixing bridges and roads, repairing tunnels, providing food stamps and other emergency assistance to families, and doing many other jobs that protect and strengthen communities.
Our nation's economy has faltered during these last eight years and from time to time, so have our spirits. But we have an opportunity to regain what we've lost. We all are ready for change. And what's more, we are ready to create it. In 2006, union workers voted for change in overwhelming numbers, taking back the U.S. Congress and putting worker-friendly governors and state legislators in office across the country. This year, we're going to do everything we can to build on that success. We need a new President who will stand with workers.
We need a president who supports public services and the workers who provide them, and opposes the privatization of public service jobs. We need a president who will work to protect Social Security, not privatize it. We need a President who will sign the Employee Free Choice Act so that workers can join unions to negotiate for better wages and benefits, not one who opposes efforts of workers to organize. We need a President who will work to enact quality, affordable health care for all Americans, not one who supports taxing employee health benefits. This year, the choice for working families is clear.
Although we can't hit the rewind button and undo the last eight years, we can move forward by electing a new president who will be a champion for working families. With this election, we can restart our economy and regain workers' rights. We can restore food safety and environmental protection laws. We can create good jobs and revive public services and people's faith in them. And we can end the war in Iraq that's robbed our nation -- and families -- of too many working men and women, and is costing us $12 billion a month.
Now's the time for us to reclaim America -- and to reclaim the values that built America's middle class. Now's the time for us to elect candidates who truly value workers and understand the needs of the nation's working families.