“Unless there is a strong Democratic (Party) case for revitalizing manufacturing, there’s a good chance George Bush will clean the Democrats’ clock,” declared Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers of America (USWA). Gerard was speaking at a press conference held during last week’s Take Back America conference in Washington, D.C.

Gerard, joined by John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, announced the results of an extensive poll of voters in the key industrial battleground states for the 2004 elections. The poll found that among all voters, 75 percent feel that “creating new manufacturing jobs should be the president’s top domestic priority.” With Democratic voters, fully 84 percent agreed.

Gerard pointed out that since January 2001 well more than 2 million jobs, mostly in manufacturing, have been lost, the worst losses since 1934. This includes 50,000 steelworker jobs and the loss of health care benefits for more than 208,000 USWA retirees and their spouses.

The poll also found that 90 percent of the voters favor negotiating and enforcing fair trade agreements that protect “environmental standards and workers’ rights.” The poll sampled voters in nine heartland states, including Pennsylvania and West Virginia, key states that Al Gore lost in the 2000 elections.

Leo Gerard also endorsed a 10-point program for energy independence that would create a million new manufacturing jobs. It is the program of a newly forming coalition called the Apollo Alliance, and includes unions, greens and consumer groups. The program includes developing renewable energy sources and new technologies, conservation, and preserving regulatory protections.

“Obviously,” Gerard said, “voters in the industrial heartland understand that the federal government’s priorities should be in creating manufacturing jobs, providing health care reform, and strengthening workers’ rights, and environmental standards in trade agreements. Any Democrat who fails to understand that message better understand that George Bush is likely to clean his clock.”

The author can be reached at scott@rednet.org