As we enter the final days of the 2012 campaign season, the nation's attention has turned to the millions of our fellow citizens struggling to recover from Hurricane Sandy. The devastation caused by this storm has been monumental, particularly in New York City, Long Island, Connecticut and down the Jersey Shore. All of us mourn the loss of life that followed the storm's violent path. We share the sorrow of those who have lost their homes, their businesses and, in some terrible cases, even the communities they love. Even today, millions remain without power and many communities remain engulfed by water.
America reveals its best when disaster strikes. We pull together as a community and do our part to help. That spirit was on full display in this most recent storm. For several days, while most were hunkering down or getting to higher ground, many public service workers all along the nation's eastern seaboard put on their boots and went to work. Police officers, firefighters, 911 operators and emergency medical technicians were saving lives. As New York City was flooded and power was lost, nurses and health professionals provided heroic service to the hundreds of patients who needed to be evacuated from more than one New York hospital.
AFSCME members have been working around the clock to help their neighbors get out of harm's way. They're inspecting bridges and tunnels; repairing roads and rails; hauling debris; and providing emergency services. Yvonne Benjamin, Janet Carmichael, Joanna Haug, Michelle Mallette, Roana McIntosh and Sandra Riccio-Abraham normally work as cooks and helpers at Evander Childs Public School in New York City. After their school was turned into a post-storm shelter, they worked five days on 12 hour schedules to help their fellow New Yorkers. They volunteered for the work, sleeping at the school and preparing meals day in and day out.
No one should be surprised by the spirit and sacrifice these women showed during the Sandy crisis. It's what public service workers do. We reject the view that America is a "you're on your own" nation. Instead, we believe we are all in this together. We help those in danger, and when the threat has passed we help our neighbors cope. And then, we help rebuild our communities.
The total cost of the damage done by Sandy is not yet fully known. What we do know is that in the coming days, weeks, and months, highway workers, public works crews, sanitation workers, law enforcement, 911 operators, paramedics, EMTs, health care workers and so many other AFSCME members will work to put our devastated cities and towns back together. Together, we share the commitment President Obama made to the people hit hardest by the storm: "We pledge to stand with those whose lives have been turned upside down for as long as it takes them to recover and rebuild."
This election matters to the first responders who ran into the storm. It matters to the public service workers who risked their lives to save others. Their lives, their livelihoods are on the line in this election. And so are the lives and livelihoods of millions of working Americans who want an economy that works for everybody and not just for the Wall Street barons and the corporate CEOs. Pres. Barack Obama and Vice Pres. Joe Biden are fighting for the same things those workers are fighting for -- a country where everyone has a chance to succeed, where the middle class is growing and thriving, where the American Dream endures.
President Obama has stood up to the corporate-backed politicians on Capitol Hill who have tried to dismantle programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. He stood up to the banks and Wall Street and passed hard-hitting reforms. He stood up to the insurance industry and passed historic health care reform.
He has fought to protect the funding of critically important education programs that give the younger generation a ladder into the middle class. He's fought to give immigrants new hope and guarantee equality for LGBT Americans. He's fought to protect families that were pummeled for more than a generation by policies that protect the wealthy but leave working men and women struggling to get by.
President Obama and Vice President Biden share our values. They believe that no matter who you are, where you come from, or how you started out, this is a country where you can make it if you try. They are fighting to help the struggling middle class, the poor and the unemployed. They are fighting to create jobs and promote equal opportunity. They are fighting for the fundamental belief that the workers at the Evander Childs Public School in New York share, a belief that we are not a "you're on your own" nation, but a "we're all in this together nation."
Barack Obama and Joe Biden have stood up for us. Now, it's time for us to stand up for them. Call your friends. Knock on your neighbors' doors. Don't hold back. Let your passion and enthusiasm come through. Let those voters hear in your voices how strongly you believe in President Obama and Vice President Biden and other pro-working family politicians up and down the ballot. If we do all we can, if we pull together, we will win on Tuesday, a victory that will help build a better future for every American family.
Follow Lee A. Saunders on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AFSCME