In his June 24 keynote speech to the 35th convention of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), union president Gerald McEntee urged delegates to put political action at the top of their agenda. Below are excerpts from his speech.

American workers are under attack by an anti-worker president who didn’t even win the election for the office he holds.

[T]he real threat in this country comes from an administration that shuns working families and sides with Big Business – like Enron, Global Crossing, Tyco, Arthur Andersen, and so many more. …

And the way we fight back is simple. We do it by taking back the United States Congress from the rich and powerful. And we put it where it belongs – in the hands of the American people.

Let’s elect a pro-worker Congress. Let’s fight like hell to elect candidates who will fight like hell for us! …

That goes for the states, too. Thirty-six governors’ seats are up for grabs. … The people who hold the keys to the Governor’s mansion are the same people who hold the keys to collective bargaining. [W]e’re fighting … to elect governors who will put people before profits and workers before corporate interests.

[W]e will not bow our heads or silence our voices when it is time to speak up about the pressing needs of this nation, about our vision for Homeland Security.

For AFSCME, Homeland Security is about a solid Social Security system.

It’s about preserving Medicare, and giving every child a quality education. It’s our job and our responsibility to keep the public school doors open in America.

Homeland Security is about welfare reform that pushes workers ahead instead of holding them back. Reform that gives them real jobs without pushing us out of our jobs.

It’s about jobs that pay a living wage, provide decent benefits, and promise a secure retirement.

And it’s about a federal government that provides the resources to help states lower their Medicaid costs and balance their budgets. …

What will you do to help us take back the Congress and fill those 36 governor’s seats? … [And] let’s commit ourselves to putting George Bush out of work in 2004.