Labor Day 2007

As we celebrate the holiday, we must also acknowledge the unsettled state of our nation. It is not a good time for workers, and American families are struggling more than ever just to get by.
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Labor Day is a time to reflect on the valuable contributions working people have made to our nation. Working men and women are the bedrock of our economy, and they have been at the heart of nearly every movement for social justice and civil rights in America. It is fitting, therefore, that we set a day aside for recognizing the American worker, whose energy, creativity and dedication has contributed so much to our freedom and prosperity.

Yet, as we celebrate the holiday, we must also acknowledge the unsettled state of our nation. It is not a good time for workers, and American families are struggling more than ever just to get by.

From the time George Bush was appointed by the Supreme Court in 2000, college tuition has shot up 56 percent. The cost of gasoline has gone up 107 percent. Forty-seven million Americans -- nearly 16 percent of our nation -- don't have health insurance. Almost 37 million Americans live below the poverty line. Corporate profits have gone up, while income for working Americans has gone down. Home foreclosures are increasing at a record rate. Pensions are at risk as employers break their promises to employees. Bush's tax cuts have not benefited those most in need of them -- working families -- but the billionaires who are his loyal supporters.

The fact is that the people whose labor has fueled our nation's economy have suffered greatly under George Bush.

If Bush truly appreciated working people and understood the challenges their families face, he would have raised the federal minimum wage for 13 million low income workers without making tax breaks for business a part of the deal. He would have compassion for those who work two or three jobs to feed their families and he would be ashamed that the number of Americans living in poverty has increased by 5.4 million since he became president.

He would support the Employee Free Choice Act to give the millions of workers who want to join a union the freedom to do so without employer intimidation. He would applaud unions for creating America's middle class and do everything in his power to strengthen the labor movement.

He would expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program in order to cover more of the 9 million kids who don't have insurance. He would realize the hypocrisy of standing in the way of providing more children with access to health care, when his own family has never had to do without treatment for an illness or injury.

And he would end his misguided war in Iraq, a war that has sacrificed nearly 3,700 of our soldiers and diverted resources that could have been used to build up our nation. He would use all the tools at his disposal to make our communities safe, improve our schools, restore and revitalize New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast, and rebuild our aging infrastructure.

The good news is that the current Congress has accomplished more for working families in just eight months than President Bush has in nearly seven years. Congress raised the federal minimum wage for the first time in a decade. The House of Representatives passed the Employee Free Choice Act, although anti-worker Senators voted against it. And Congress is fighting the cuts in domestic programs -- including education, child care, Medicare, Medicaid and employment training -- that Bush has proposed in his budget. None of that would be happening if not for our efforts to change America's direction and elect new leaders in 2006. We will continue that process next year.

Last Labor Day, President Bush proclaimed that the working people of America "build better lives for themselves and their families and make America stronger." In 2008, when we elect a President who stands with working families instead of against them, we will make those words ring true.

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