Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Organize unions to end boom and bust economy

This article is part of a series on the Democratic National Convention.

PHILADELPHIA – U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio all delivered the same message today to the Democratic Party’s Labor Council: the time is ripe for the American trade union movement to take the lead in building an economy that works for the 99 percent.

“Something very powerful is happening in America,” de Blasio told the audience of labor activists. “All the work, all the organizing, all that you have done for many years is now culminating [in results] as never before.”

The Council meeting took place on the third day of the Democratic Party National Convention, which ends tomorrow.

De Blasio cited new laws recently passed in New York City and New York State to raise the wages of low wage workers such as those working in car washes. The laws also guarantee that such workers will receive sick leave and family leave and that their working conditions will be safer.

De Blasio said that for too long the Democratic Party was not clear about programs to fight wage inequality, but “when the voices of Bernie delegates came together, the Party heard and produced the most progressive platform in history.”

De Blasio as well as the other speakers credited the labor movement with convincing the Democratic Party to adopt its current platform. Each one said they are convinced Hillary Clinton will work to turn the platform’s goals into laws.

De Blasio said winning the platform could be the first step in winning a 2016 version of the New Deal.

“This is our 1933,” he said, citing the year organized labor began winning economic reforms that lead to the growth of the American middle class.

Sen. Warren continued the same theme.

“There was a time when American workers built America” with their unions,” she said.

“From the 1930s to 1980 we had an economy that worked for people. As America got richer, workers got richer and as workers got richer, America got richer.

“But then,” Warren said, “the Republicans took over. The first thing they did was to fire cops; not cops on the beat, but the cops that made sure Wall Street was obeying the law.

“They then cut taxes for the very rich, which left less money for schools, health care and for maintaining the infrastructure.”

The worse thing the Republicans did, Warren said, was to take aim at unions.

The result: over 70 percent of the wealth generated since 1980 has gone to the top one percent of Americans.

Meanwhile, wages have remained flat.

“But,” Warren said, “labor unions built America and we will re-build it now.”

She said that if labor unions “fight side by side” and organize, they can stop this “boom and bust economy.”

She concluded, “We can build an economy that works for all people.”

The audience chanted in Spanish “sí se puede!” (yes we can).

After Warren, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state is “the most unionized in America, and I’m proud of that.”

He said that at one time “being a Democrat and being pro-union” was the same thing, but the Party drifted away from that.

Now, he said, the Democratic Party is returning to its roots.

He reported that his state has raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour and requires that all publicly funded construction projects be union jobs.

Furthermore, he said, he has appointed an Exploited Worker Taskforce to develop plans to protect all workers, whether they are documented or not.

“These things are good for New York State,” he said, “and would be good for the United States.”

Photo: Elizabeth Warren speaks at the DNC.  |  J. Scott Applewhite/AP


Larry Rubin
Larry Rubin

Larry Rubin has been a union organizer, a speechwriter and an editor of union publications. He was a civil rights organizer in the Deep South and is often invited to speak on applying Movement lessons to today's challenges. He has produced several folk music shows.