CLEVELAND — Warning of grave danger to the rights and living standards of working people, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) urged a meeting of 100 union activists here to go all out to defeat Sen. John McCain, the Republican candidate for president in next November’s election.
“Everything we have been doing for years,” Kucinich said, “has to be funneled into the 2008 elections. Our entire way of life is under attack.”
Speaking to the North Coast AFL-CIO Political Training Meeting April 25 at the Steelworkers union hall, Kucinich said labor must unite behind the Democratic Party candidate, whether it is Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. Hillary Clinton.
“Our jobs are on the line, health care is on the line, Social Security, pensions, trade agreements are on the line, peace is on the line, our kids’ future is on the line, education, housing, everything. America is on the line.”
Kucinich warned that McCain must not be underestimated and currently enjoys widespread support. In fact, Ohio AFL-CIO President Joe Rugola, who opened the meeting, reported that McCain had a 57 percent approval rating among union members, “the highest of any Republican in history.”
But, Kucinich said, although workers may respect McCain as a former prisoner of war, “You must know him. Arizona is a right-to-work state. There is no question that on the economy, he is an extension of the Bush administration.”
“We must challenge the economic system that is accelerating wealth upwards,” Kucinich said. The Bush-McCain policies use trade, profiteering, health care and energy policies to do this, he said.
“This is about economic survival. If there is another Republican president, it will be hard to rebuild the labor movement.”
But, he said, “The power of the working class is tremendous and I am confident you will save the day. You are the vanguard of the effort to recreate America, to change the direction of history.”
To loud cheers Kucinich recounted the measures he supports in Congress to address the key problems of working people, including the Conyers-Kucinich Medicare-for-All Bill (HR 676), the Kucinich-LaTourette infrastructure rebuilding bill, a proposal for a “Works Green Administration” to develop green energy, and measures to end the war in Iraq.
“We here all know about class warfare,” he said. “Well, this war is about class warfare. The war will cost $2-3 trillion that is needed to solve our problems at home. The war is an economic issue.”
Kucinich said he would introduce a new bill for a windfall profits tax on oil companies “to stop the blatant gouging of consumers by companies like Exxon that last year had $40 billion in profits.”
“Our country is run by the oil companies,” Kucinich said. “That’s what caused the war in Iraq and the threat of war in Iran. It is terrible but that is why our young people are being sent to die. Bush’s entire international policy is about oil. That is why they are trying to encircle Russia.”
“If labor is instrumental in electing the next president, labor will have major influence over our national policy. It’s not rocket science. This is what we have to do.”
The training session, one of six held around Ohio, focused on new computerized methods for union activists to educate and mobilize members in the elections.
“The world will be watching Ohio just as in 2004 when Ohio was the key battleground state,” said Ben Waxman, an AFL-CIO national political coordinator. Union members, he said, are voting in record numbers. In the March Ohio primary union members and their families cast 34 percent of the votes, the highest in history.
In the past year the economy has become the most important issue to voters, he said, followed by the war.
Rugola said labor needed to focus on other electoral battles as well, including three congressional seats that could switch from Republican to Democrat and 12 seats in the state legislature.
“Together with Working America and the United Auto Workers, we will be talking to two million households in the state,” he said.