Do you think they heard us this time?
Although the Bush administration and its congressional allies have done a very good job of ignoring working families for six years, I think they must have heard us Nov. 7.
Working families have rejected the policies of the Bush administration and its Republican rubber-stamp leadership in Congress. We said no to giving special favors to the privileged while blocking a minimum wage increase. No to lousy trade deals that have exported good jobs. No to privatizing Social Security, our most important family protection program. No to spending hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives in Iraq while ignoring the war on the middle class here at home. No to energy and health care policies that have fattened oil and pharmaceutical industry profits without helping working families meet their needs or build for tomorrow.
This election, though, was not just about what working families reject. It also was about what we embrace: fairness, opportunity, real family values, security and shared responsibilities for those around us who need our help.
We will tell the new members of Congress what working families expect them to do immediately:
• Raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour.
• Restore workers’ freedom to form unions — pass the Employee Free Choice Act and reverse the National Labor Relations Board’s recent ruling that allows employers to deny workers’ union rights by classifying them as “supervisors.”
• Overturn the ban prohibiting Medicare from negotiating with drug companies for more affordable prescription drugs.
• Stop sending our best jobs overseas — reward companies that create jobs at home, instead of giving tax dollars to companies that export our jobs.
• Reverse the cuts in student loans made by the Republican Congress.
We’ll also tell the newly elected senators and representatives about the longer-term expectations of working families that Congress must immediately start work to:
• Provide quality, affordable health care for all.
• Write new plans to provide real retirement security for America’s workers and retirees, starting with reforming corporate bankruptcy laws that enable companies to dump their obligations to employees.
• Bring our troops home from Iraq rapidly and make our neighborhoods and nation safer and more secure by fighting the real war on terror and preparing for natural disasters.
• End the tax breaks for Big Oil and make serious investments in renewable energy to reduce our dependency on foreign oil.
• Revitalize manufacturing and safeguard good jobs by ending China’s currency manipulation, restoring balance to our trade agenda and rejecting trade deals that do not guarantee workers’ rights and environmental protections. No Fast Track for President Bush!
• Make America a leader again in respecting human rights and civil rights at home and around the world.
• Adequately fund and support a world-class public education system for all our children.
• Develop a reasonable immigration system that protects the rights of all workers and provides a path to citizenship for hard-working, tax-paying immigrant workers who come to our nation seeking a better life.
• Rebuild America’s roads, bridges, schools, water systems and other infrastructure while creating good jobs to get the work done.
We all worked so hard to mobilize working family voters for change in this election. The hard work isn’t over — now we must keep the heat on Congress to make sure our voices continue to be heard. But after seeing the change working families of our country accomplished in this election, I have no doubt we will succeed.
John Sweeney is president of the AFL-CIO. This article is reprinted from www.aflcio.org.