09/22/2008 03:32 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Mitch McConnell and Our Effort to Turn Around America

Remarks to the Kentucky Jobs with Justice Annual Dinner
Louisville, Kentucky
Thursday, September 18th, 2008

We gather tonight at a most precipitous moment in our nation's history - a moment filled with possibility for change and filled with possibility for real disaster.

The America people and the people of Kentucky are called on in this season of decision to do what they know is right and 'Turn Around America" - to embrace the future with hope, optimism and the spirit that has led America forward through a tumultuous history that sometimes falters, sometimes stumbles, but ultimately always progresses forward to greater freedom, fairness, justice and opportunity.

But our people can also choose bigotry, division, fear, greed, war and occupation - pushing our country backwards and forcing our children and grandchildren into lives with less opportunity, less justice, more avarice and a meaner America.

You see 80% of the people of America say the country is on the wrong track, headed in the wrong direction. And in just 7 short weeks we get to go to the polls and choose to continue in the wrong direction with John McCain and Mitch McConnell, or we can choose to head toward a future America that is full of real change and hope with Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Bruce Lunsfond.

It is a stark and clear choice and we know what we ought to go. We have to Turn Around America and get Kentucky out of the ditch!

Today's headlines scream out the crisis in the economy. The - our recession - has captured the middle class. The corruption of a failed trickle down economic plan is infecting Wall Street and the wealthiest amongst us - financiers and the one assumed rock solid pillars of America. Capital - Lehman Bros, Bear Stearns, AIG not to mention Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in danger of collapse with the potential to take our savings, our pensions and what little investments we have with them.

We know this crisis well. We have been living with it for a while under current administration-
- 20% more living in poverty today than at the end of the last century when George Bush took office.
- 47 millions without healthcare - more than in 1965 when we created Medicare and Medicaid and another 40 million with inadequate or unreliable healthcare.
- Rising productivity but stagnant and declining wages
- Rising unemployment.
- Exploding profits and CEO pay while the producers - us - suffer. The average American CEO in 1080 made 40 times as much as the average workers. Today it is 400 times as much as the average worker.
- Gasoline that has tripled in price since George Bush took office. I am no conspiracy theorist, but I don't think it is coincidental that we put two greedy, out of touch, oilmen in office- who never balanced a checkbook, never looked for the cheapest cut of meat or the best deal on a used car or fixed a screen door or cut the grass or put off paying the credit cards because the mortgage was due. Is it that surprising that when we put two out of touch oil men, oil executives in office the cars and gasoline tripled in price?

And then George Bush, John McCain and Mitch McConnell stand up and say: "The fundamentals of the economy are strong. The economy is sound." What kind of fools and idiots do they take us for?

John McCain and Mitch McConnell just don't get it! Mitch McConnell and John McCain and George Bush are out of touch. They have no idea what Kentucky families are going through in this rotten economy.

Listen to that again, Mitch McConnell and John McCain and George Bush are so out of touch they think the fundamentals of the economy are strong!

And don't fall into the lie that John McCain and Mitch McConnell are different than George Bush. McCain and McConnell voted with Bush 90%. And there is not a bit of difference between those three on economic policy! They never saw a worker they didn't want to exploit or a CEO they didn't want to reward.

See, Brothers and Sisters, Mitch McConnell as the Republican leader in the Senate is George Bush's right hand man in the U.S. Senate. He is just as responsible for driving our economy in the ditch as is George Bush. Were it not for Mitch McConnell and his filibuster millions more American kids would get the healthcare they need in the SCHIP Program. Were it not for Mitch McConnell and John McCain we would have a Medicare prescription drug program that works for our seniors and not just the drug companies. Were it not for Mitch McConnell's filibuster we would have passed the Employee Free Choice Act and workers would again have the freedom to form unions and the opportunity to bargain collectively with their employers and we would be lifting stagnant wages and securing benefits and pumping money in the form of increased wages into this economy and powering this economy ending the recession and economic crisis - and - everyone - including the filthy rich - would be better off.

And if it weren't for Mitch McConnell and George Bush we wouldn't be spending more on building infrastructure in Iraq than in America.

Do not be confused. Mitch McConnell is no longer a Kentuckian. Mitch McConnell is the center of Washington, DC's corrupt, radical rightwing Republican Party that has run America and our economy off the tracks and into the ditch! If you want change in DC, it starts right here in Kentucky by removing McConnell from the US Senate. It is time we end the Bush/McConnell/McCain nightmare!

We know what we have to do. We know what we need to do.

We cannot turn around America without beating Bush/McCain and Mitch McConnell in the November election!

An we cannot beat them unless union folks and community organizations, civil rights folks and people of faith and all Americans of good will come together to say Enough is Enough - We're gonna change America. After all, this is where many of us gather anyway. We in the labor movement know we cannot do it alone. That is why Jobs With Justice is so important - to bring us all together.

Speaking of bringing us together. There is a conversation that is centuries overdue - the American conversation about race. We have to talk and listen to our families, people in our communities and in our workplaces. We have to put the facts on the table and challenge the racism and bigotry when we encounter it, because we need people to put aside their prejudices.

There is no question who is on the side of workers, who will lift up our country and our families, who will restores our economy and confront lobbyists and corporate power and who will end the awful waste of life and treachery in Iraq. It is Barack Obama

And we simply can no longer indulge racism in one another. We have to remind one another that dividing workers by race is the bosses' oldest and most effective tactic. But we cannot let the boss win this time. We can no longer indulge the worst in ourselves. We have to appeal to the best in each of us - our better angels and call on each of us to do what we know is right to elect Barack Obama for President. And to elect Bruce Lunsford to back him up in the U.S. Senate.

It is up to us, Brothers and Sisters.

And we can win we will turn around America...if and only if we get out the vote for these candidates!

Let me conclude by briefly talking about a very important issue that also rides on this election.

The Employer Free Choice Act gives workers the freedom to join and form unions without facing the unethical attempts by employers to put fear and intimidation in their way. The Employee Free Choice Act gives employees the opportunity to bargain their way into the Middle Class and bargain a stronger, larger, deeper middle class. With the Employee Free Choice Act, America can rebuild the middle class just like workers and unions originally built in the 1940's and 50's when workers formed unions and lifted poverty level jobs into Middle Class Jobs.

Listen, here's exactly what the Employee Free Choice Act can do.

1) Impose real penalties on employers who violate Federal Labor Law. Today there are no effective penalties.
2) Stop companies from running away from the union. Once the union is formed employers have 120 days to get to a new contract, then the union can get mediation, and arbitration so a contract has to be negotiated, not neglected like many are today.
3) And finally it will allow workers to join and form unions just like the Boss can join the Bluegrass State Chamber of Commerce - simply by signing a card! But still gives the freedom to have a secret ballot election if the employees so choose!

We can pass the Employee Free Choice Act, and I believe we will, but it won't be easy.

The bosses in the Chamber of Commerce and the Radical Right Wing led by Grover Norquist and Rick Berman will spend $300 millions to stop us. That is why we have to make the largest demand in the history of the American labor movement - the Million Worker Mobilization. It starts with signing this card - and getting one million more to. Already 700,000 have signed up. I encourage you te part of the Mission Worker Mobilization.

We will present this demand signed by a Million Workers President Obama and the Democratic Congress and say this is how you save the middle class and this is how you can pump new dollars, new life into the economy and restore economic power to workers.

Then we will continue our fight for universal or national healthcare to make healthcare a right not a privilege and to ensure that in the richest country in the history of the world every American can have healthcare.

Then we take on corporate-fueled globalization to make trade deals fair, trade that lifts us workers rights and environmental protections, trade deals that say if you can protect intellectual property rights you ca protect children from abusive work, that if you can enrich the elites, you can protect communities and the workers who live in them.

Brothers and Sisters, these aren't just dreams and they are more than hope. This is a fight for our kids and our grandkids, for the soul of this country that our sons and daughters. And we are gonna win!

Together we will win!