Restore the American labor movement, restore the nation!

In a speech to the 46th Convention of the Iowa Federation of Labor, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) called for renewed struggle “to bring economic justice to those who have created the wealth through their work.” An excerpted version of the speech follows:

Let us begin anew to bring economic justice to those who have created the wealth through their work. A re-energized labor movement will re-energize America’s politics and create a more just society.

For decades, labor has been telling the nation about the dangers of unchecked corporate power. Labor stood almost alone while corporations cut wages and benefits, slashed working hours, tried to undermine wage and hour provisions, reneged on contracts and jettisoned pensions.

This needs to change. When both work and workers are valued, when all men and women are given a chance to earn their daily bread, when all are paid a living wage, when hands strong and weak can clasp in common enterprise to seek and to build a new world, then every day will belong to workers. And every voice will praise the moment when human toil has lifted up the human condition.

We need to feel in every cell of our bodies that power which comes from union: the power which confirms our purpose, the power that, when focused and directed, will save our nation by saving the Democratic Party from the clutches of corporate interests.

Enlightened self-interest requires labor to make the Democratic Party accountable. Labor must rally the Democrats to the workers’ banner. Labor must begin now to build the Democratic platform for 2004 to ensure that solid principles of economic justice prevail and to inspire millions of Americans, who would otherwise stay home on Election Day.

Labor cannot afford to settle for half-hearted nominees who advance propositions which are an offense to basic fairness and workers’ dignity – propositions that would take us back to the days of “Sixteen Tons,” when those who worked hard ended up “another day older and deeper in debt” and owed their soul to the company store.

The soul of the worker is not for sale. It will not be sacrificed upon the corporate altar, nor annihilated by a hostile or indifferent government. If Labor goes to the mountaintop of our nation’s Capitol in 2004, it must bring back these rights of working people – and they must be engraved in stone: The right to a job and a safe workplace. The right to decent wages and benefits. The right to organize and strike. The right to a secure retirement and to participate in the political process.

There can be no true corporate accountability unless workers’ rights are protected. And workers’ rights cannot be protected unless the Democratic Party makes it the centerpiece of its legislative program and its drive for the White House in 2004. The Democratic Party must be challenged by Labor to truly be the party of all the people. When the Democratic Party rises it must be with the ranks not from the ranks.

The restoration of workers’ rights will bring the dawn of a new political age. These rights are the core principles of an American Restoration, not mere political principles. These are timeless moral principles – about fairness – about equality – about justice.

The restoration of the rights of workers in America and throughout the North American continent will begin when we repeal NAFTA. The American Restoration will be about restoring the physical health of our people with a universal health care system, with prescription drug coverage.

America needs a great new public works program to restore the dream of a full employment economy, to restore the physical health of our nation. Labor, inspired to rally the disaffected, the dispirited, the disenfranchised, can provide new hope for our country through bringing forth new leadership responsive in word and deed to the task of rebuilding our nation. As FDR said, “The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.”

You know and I know that it will be the children of the poor and of working men and women who will become cannon fodder unless we demand our leaders give up the arms build up, end the war talk, stop the saber rattling, and work with our allies to take up the burden of global security.

We need a new vision of America, as a nation among nations, as a strong presence, but not as king of a unipolar world, dictating policy on behalf of global corporate interests. We need a vision that connects workers and all people in the highest causes of the human spirit: peace and justice. This will be the crowning achievement of an American Restoration: the liberation of people all over the world.