Happy International Workers Day!
Today is the day workers around the world celebrate workers solidarity and our ongoing struggle to win fairness on the jobs and social and economic justice in human society.
It is so appropriate that Jobs with Justice would pick this day and this weekend to bring together the working class of this area to celebrate our connectedness, our solidarity, and our commitment to help one another in our various struggles.
We gather on this May Day of 2009 at a time of great hope and great promise and a time of great challenge.
How we meet the challenges and opportunities which we face all around us will determine the near term future of our country, the quality of life for our kids and grandkids and possibly even the world.
Though some of us may have been divided in the past, we no longer have the luxury of division.
Workers, trade unionist, advocates and organizers of the poor and immigrants, environmentalists, feminists, LGBT activist, clergy and people of faith, community leaders, seekers of peace and warriors for justice, our individual destiny is bound up in our common destiny.
So we are bound by our common destiny, but we are bound even more tightly by our common values.
You see, my brothers and sisters, we believers in justice and progress are bound by the fundamental thread of humanity - as old as the human species and the human spirit.
It is that fundamental thread of humanity that has ensured that across all the eons
And epochs of human history that people have slowly, falteringly struggled toward greater freedom and justice.
• We believe that people count for more than profit or money
• We believe that peace is better than war
• We believe that the creation around us is worthy of our protection - for our health and the health of future generations - and for its own sake
• We believe that each person and each worker is worthy of dignity and respect, that healthcare is a right and not a privilege
And so in this historic moment, those values inform our work and our work together.
We know that those values are not incompatible but totally consistent.
So tonight I ask us to think about how we use our values to build a struggle for human sustainability.
• A sustainable environment
• Sustainable jobs
• Sustainable health
• A sustainable economy
We know that our planet and our environment cannot much longer sustain the neglect and abuse we have subjected it to. Our fossil fuels will one day run out but before they do they will harm our air quality irreparably.
So it only makes sense for us to tap those sources of energy that are not only sustainable but everlasting - the wind that never stops blowing across the Great Plains, the incessant pull of the tides of our oceans, the incredible energy of the sun.
But to tap this everlasting and energy requires skilled crafts people to build the windmills and turbines, to build and install the turbines that can be turned by the tides of the sea.
Sustainable jobs that help preserve a sustainable environment.
The power, the electricity created by the winds in Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Kansas has to get to where it is needed. That requires skilled workers to build a new electricity grid and power lines.
Sustainable jobs for a sustainable environment. That is whey the steel workers and the Sierra Club and NRDC have formed the Blue Green Alliance and the AFL-CIO the Green Jobs Initiative.
We have suffered through a 30 year assault as our values, on our society, on our people, on our institutions, on the quality of our lives and our standards of living.
Contrary to 4000 years of human history, wisdom, and sacred teachings we have been told that greed is good, you are not your brothers or your sisters keeper, you are on your own - and that illness and sickness are private, individual problems that sere to make a few obscenely rich at the expense and the pain of the many - now 47, 48, 50 millions of us without healthcare and 40 million more with inadequate or unreliable healthcare.
Now that ever deepening healthcare crisis has become a drag on our economy as those of us with insurance pay for emergency care for those without and American companies that pay for their employees healthcare try to compete with corporations in Canada and Western Europe where healthcare is provided by the government.
Why don't we have government insured healthcare for every American like Medicare for All taking the burden off our economy and American enterprise.
Sustainable healthcare for a Sustainable Economy.
All those 30 years that we were being told that greed is good and your are on your own, we workers were working harder and harder for less and less.
Though our productivity went up by 75% in the last 30 years, for 20 years our wages were stagnant, flat lined and during Bush's presidency our wages fell. The standard of living of workers today - our buying power - is less that it was in 1973.
According to the Federal Reserve, median family wealth is lower today that in 2001.
We have 20% more people living in poverty today than we had in at the end of the last century when George Bush was elected President.
You are on Your Own
The average CEO in 1980 made 40 times what the average workers made. Today the average CEO makes 400 times what the average worker makes.
See, while they told us you are on your own, they did all they could to make it so. While they ignored climate change and global warming and more and more kids with asthma and more and more cancer cases, they were busting our unions, out sourcing and contracting out and privatizing our work, Walmarting our economy, telling us we have to compete in a global economy that sends 13 year old girls to factories and factory dorms and the whims of supervisors in the Caribbean Basin, that murders trade unionists in Colombia, that sends 9 and 10 year olds to work in Vietnam and Pakistan and uses slave labor in China.
Doing everything possible to stop workers from forming unions and bargaining collectively became a routine part of a corrupt corporate culture.
Last year in the US 30,000 workers were retaliated against for exercising legally protected union activity. Every year for the last 15, more than 20,000 workers were discriminated for legally protected union activity. Workers are routinely harassed, intimidated, retaliated against and fired for trying to form unions.
And for most workers the difference between poverty and livable wages and even the middle class is belonging to a union.
My brothers and sisters, folks in poverty without healthcare for their kids don't have the luxury of thinking about global warming or climate change. If your kid is sick and your can't pay the rent and all our have to eat is baloney and Chef Boyardee and your boss is an asshole and work is hell, its kind of hard to hear your better angels and you really do feel you are on your own.
What if we restore the freedom to forum unions and bargain collectively? What if we pass the Economy Free Choice Act?
What if we allow workers to bargain a way out of poverty, what if we bargain the meanness out of work, what if we bargain more buying power, more consumer demand to once again power the great American economic engine end this recession.
But this time power it with sustainability - sustainable economy, sustainable environment, sustainable jobs, and a sustainable future.
And so today on May Day, let us re-commit ourselves to a more just future -
A sustainable future
A sustainable environment
A sustainable economy