We Endorse John Edwards

John Edwards' decision last week to participate in public campaign financing set off a qualm-storm in the media about his ranking among the Democratic candidates but, for us, it strongly reaffirmed our confidence in him.

It was deemed a sign of financial weakness by completely fallible political junkies and media critics who've anointed a front-runner despite the fact that the race is too close to call in Iowa, and other candidates have gathered more endorsements and raised more money.

To us, Edwards' decision meant we'd chosen the right candidate, one who prefers public money with its limitations to the complications of accepting donations from donors who prove to be fugitives from justice.

Edwards' move to public financing was principled. It was about his refusal to take corporate campaign contributions -- which he calls corporate bribes. He's got that right.

And we had it right when we endorsed him on Labor Day.

We chose John Edwards, the son of a fabric mill worker, because he is our soul mate.

In the most profound way, he understands the needs and hopes of America and American workers. And he is committed to us -- workers, our children, our retired parents, and the most vulnerable in our communities -- the poor, the disenfranchised and the disabled.

He isn't just the son of a mill worker. He labored there, too. He recalls the men in overalls, grease on their faces, lint in their hair. And what's significant is that he recalls them with fondness, not with the derision and condescension of some who make it big after leaving their small towns.

That's because he still regards himself as a man of a small town. His values are those of America's heartland. They are steelworker and mineworker values. Hard work. Equal opportunity. Fair treatment. Goodness of heart. Striving for common good.

John Edwards' appeal to the steelworkers and mineworkers is that he will bring the promise of America to all of its citizens, not just one group or another. He wants to give the American Dream back to the middle class, to working people and the impoverished. He believes, as our members do, that if an American spends a lifetime working hard, he or she deserves a living wage, health care, and a secure retirement. Those are the rights of every American. Not just a privileged few. Not just those lucky enough to make it big.

We've spent nearly eight years under the rule of a president who devoted himself to widening the wallets and padding the pockets of big corporations and those who run them. This president cultivated and promoted the concept of two Americas, a special one for the rich and a lesser one for the rest. This son of wealth welcomed criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff into the White House while bestowing tax breaks to the nation's richest. Now he's intent on denying health care to the nation's youngest and poorest with a veto to the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

George Bush has fractured the covenant between Americans and their government, shattered the faith of citizens that their pledge assured them one nation, indivisible, with justice for all.

John Edwards has promised to restore one America. He believes, as we do, that for such healing to happen a candidate must be able to stand up to the wealthiest in this nation and to the most powerful interests. Edwards didn't start that campaign last week. He began a decade ago when he first refused corporate contributions.

Leo W. Gerard, international president, United Steelworkers and Cecil E. Roberts, international president, United Mine Workers of America