The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, October 27, 2006

Help wanted: We share responsibility for our political future

By The Building Tradesman

By John Sweeney
AFL-CIO President

Look at the problems working families are facing in this country - at the challenges to our values, to a middle-class life, to our national community. Yet, too many of our elected leaders have done nothing when confronted with obvious failures in our national policies and decisions.

Too many tried to hide the Foley scandal. Too many have ignored the realities of Iraq. Too many have done nothing to relieve the suffering of job loss, low wages, unaffordable health care, retirement insecurity, soaring debt, inequality and more. Too many of them, in fact, are making the problems worse.

Responsibility for fighting the crises among working families doesn't rest only on the shoulders of elected officials. We share it - and when our national leaders are not fulfilling that responsibility, working men and women must assume it.

We are just weeks away from a crucial election that will determine whether America continues in the wrong direction or gets back on course. It's time for each of us to do a self-assessment - a check-up on whether we're doing all we can. Let's each ask ourselves these questions:

Have I educated myself about the positions of my state's candidates for the U.S. House and Senate, the governor's seat, the state legislature and local offices? Do I know whether they favor or oppose increasing the minimum wage? Stopping unfair trade deals that send U.S. jobs overseas and exploit workers in developing countries? Restoring workers' freedom to form unions? Strengthening rather than privatizing Social Security?

Have I shared what I know about candidates' positions with co-workers, friends, relatives and neighbors? Have I spent enough evenings or Saturdays on precinct walks? At phone banks? Have I donated enough to the campaigns of candidates who pledge to support working families rather than wealthy and corporate donors?

As a parent or grandparent, an aunt or uncle, godmother or godfather, can I look into the eyes of the children in my life and honestly say: "I'm doing everything I can to leave to you a better country, a better world"?

This year, voting alone isn't enough. Corporations outspend unions 24 to 1 on politics. We have to cut through the high-priced, self-serving advertising and media spin that corporate-backed candidates can afford. We have to help build people-power that is more powerful and more effective than dollar-power.

At a moment when our nation's leaders are filling the public with the kind of frustration and disgust that can breed voter apathy, we have to build voter hope. To energize the people around us with our conviction that by working together we can make a world of difference.
Register to vote, find candidates' positions, volunteer for political action, get candidate comparison fliers to share. Be part of the movement that is going to take back America for working families on Nov. 7.