Remarks of Mayor Martin J. Walsh Greater Boston Labor Council

As Prepared for Delivery

September 3, 2018

Thank you Rich [Rogers], Darlene [Lombos], Steve Tolman, Jessica Tang, and all my sisters and brothers in labor. Senators [Elizabeth] Warren and [Edward] Markey, Congressman Mike Capuano, Attorney General Maura Healey, all the elected officials and all the candidates here.

Thank you to the members of Unite HERE Local 26, who are working hard here today and in hotels across our city. Let’s give them a hand.

Happy Labor Day everyone!

I am proud to be mayor of the city with the strongest labor community in the country! This is the day we celebrate that community—the community of organized labor and the community of all working-class families. This is the day we honor those who came before us, who put everything on the line to win our rights. And let’s not forget those still fighting for their rights—like the men and women of the locked-out USW gasworker locals.

You know how much this community means to me. The labor movement gave my immigrant family a fair shot at the American Dream.  You gave me the second chance I needed. You stood with me at every step of my journey. I will always be grateful.

But this Labor Day, we have to do more than celebrate past progress. We have to fight to defend it and to advance it, because today, too many Americans aren’t getting a fair shot or a second chance. Wages aren’t keeping up with inflation. Health care and college are getting more expensive. An opioid crisis is shattering families. Working people are falling behind. The middle class is shrinking. And the party in power in Washington not only isn’t listening—they are the ones launching these attacks.

I see it every day as mayor of Boston. No matter how much progress we make, no matter how many wins we get for working people, what happens in Washington is hurting us. From immigration, to climate change, to health care, infrastructure, workers’ rights and labor regulations—everything is under attack and all that we’ve gained is at stake.

That’s why I went to Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa this summer. I was the first Massachusetts politician in history to visit the Iowa State Fair who’s not running for president. I don’t know if they believed me.

No, the truth is, I wanted to visit the places where Donald Trump won in 2016. We are in a national fight to win back Washington for working people and rebuild the middle class. And I wasn’t about to sit on the sidelines.

I wanted to talk to working-class people there and I wanted to help the labor leaders and the Democratic candidates who are fighting to win their districts, win their Statehouses, and win back Washington for working people on November 6.

I met some incredible candidates. Rob Richardson is an African-American member of the Laborers Union running for State Treasurer in Ohio. Abby Finkenauer is the daughter of a union pipefitter running for Congress in Iowa to fight for working families. Deirdre DeJear is a small business owner running for Secretary of State—the first African-American nominee for statewide office in Iowa’s history. Fred Hubbell is a Laborer running for governor in Iowa. Ken Harbaugh is a former Navy pilot, Aftab Pureval is a first-generation American, and Danny O’Connor is a rural county official who stood up for gay rights, who are all fighting to turn red seats blue. And they’re all strong allies of labor.

But I also talked to a lot of rank-and-file workers. And they didn’t all believe that new political leadership was going to make a difference in their lives. Too many workers are still not engaged in the fight. Frankly, it’s the same conversation I’ve had here in Boston with too many of our union members. After all that we’ve seen in two years of this White House, there’s still a disconnect. We still have a lot of work to do.

As a former union leader myself, I know an endorsement and a check aren’t enough. We need to go out and educate our members about why we vote for pro-labor Democrats. Show them who really stands up for working families, who fights for health care and schools, who fights for better wages, and how we get those wages by standing together.  Let them know: collective bargaining didn’t always exist. It took generations of struggle. And we’ve seen how it can be taken away.

That’s the goal of the Supreme Court’s Janus decision: to break up collective bargaining for public employees, to cut their pay, and destroy their power. And guess who they’re coming for next? Every other union worker. And when unions are weakened, working people lose. That’s the lesson of the last 50 years.

We’re at a turning point in this country. It’s a time to fight hard and take nothing for granted. We should not assume that every Democrat will support us on every issue. We have to go out and educate every elected official and explain to them what’s at stake for our members and for all working people. We have to build up working people’s champions at every level of government—just like we are building up labor champions in every state of the union. We need to elect people who share our values and will work with us in good times and in tough times as well.

We need to be consistent and united. If you side with an elected official who is anti-labor, you might get what you want on an issue or two, but not only will you weaken the labor movement, it will come back to hurt your members and their families. We’ve seen it time and again: elections have consequences.

We’ve got some big ones coming up—tomorrow and nine weeks from now. On November 6, we have a chance to take back the House of Representatives in Washington. When that happens, our Massachusetts delegation will be positioned to lead. Richie Neal will likely be chairman of Ways & Means. Jim McGovern, chairman of the Rules Committee. Mike Capuano will head subcommittees in Transportation and Financial Services.

By re-electing these champions, we will have our most powerful delegation since the days of Ted Kennedy, Tip O’Neill, and Joe Moakley. That means they’ll bring home the essential investments and the good jobs we need. More important, we’ll have people leading Congress who share our values—who believe in opportunity, who believe in rebuilding the middle class, who are strong allies of all working people, who know how to fight and how to deliver—and who understand the threat that Donald Trump and his allies pose to working people and to our nation.

Look at what Trump has done just this year. Tearing babies away from their mothers. Siding with Vladimir Putin over American intelligence officials, on the integrity of our elections. Responding to school shootings by telling teachers to bring guns into the classroom. Passing a tax cut for the wealthiest corporations—while ignoring the roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure that is essential to our future, and setting us up for a deficit catastrophe down the road. Nominating to the Supreme Court two judges with the most anti-worker records we’ve ever seen—including one who blocked workers from unionizing in Donald Trump’s own casino in 2012. And he’s done all of this with the help of Republican leadership in Congress and the United States Senate.

If anyone, ever, questioned the difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, let that lie be put to rest for all time.

For too long, Republicans have convinced too many working people to focus on what divides us, instead of the deeper things that unite us. And once they get us fighting each other, they don’t have to fight for us.

On this Labor Day, my message to fellow workers, here in Boston and across America, is clear: don’t be fooled, don’t be divided, and don’t be defeated any longer. It’s time to stand together and fight back. It’s time to bring union members and all working people back into the Democratic Party—to save their rights and to save this country.

It’s tie for Democrats to say loud and clear: We are the party that fights for the marginalized and the vulnerable. We are the party that fights for civil rights. We are the party that welcomes immigrants. We are the party of women’s equality and LGBT rights. We are the party that passed transgender rights—and I’m asking you to protect those rights again by voting yes in November. We are the party of senior citizens. We are the party of veterans who fought for this country and gave us our ability to join a union. We are the party of universal health care. We are the party that fights to raise the minimum wage and fights for good wages and benefits for all. We are the party of collective bargaining, the right to organize, the right to a good quality of life, and the dignity that all people deserve.

Make no mistake. For decades, Republicans have systematically gone after unions and workers all across this country. They’ve taken over Statehouses in 32 states, using anti-worker, anti-labor propaganda that many of our own members have bought into.

And what’s been the result? Union membership down. Pensions lost. Wages down. Inequality up. Health care under attack. The middle class in decline. It all happened together, because it’s all the same fight. And it always has been.

125 years ago this week, AFL president Samuel Gompers was asked, what does labor want? And many of you know what he told them. He said: “We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; more opportunities to cultivate our better natures … and make childhood more happy and bright.”

We are those children. That’s what our parents and grandparents fought for: a better life and a better country for us. And that’s all that working people want today. So I call on each and every one of us to stand up, be counted, push back, share your values, work together, put aside our differences; and put on our work boots, our hard hats, our nurses’ scrubs, and whatever uniform you wear, and get to work to build that country together.

We are organized labor. And Washington may be broken, but there’s nothing American workers can’t fix. Vote to elect and re-elect champions of labor in the Democratic party—up and down the ballot. Educate and activate our memberships behind them. Help fight for labor’s allies all across the country—whether it’s an open seat in New England or a Democratic challenger in Ohio. And keep fighting every single day until November 6, and all the way through 2020, when we take back Washington for working families, and we get this country moving forward again for all Americans.

Thank you, God Bless you, God bless the Labor movement, and God bless the United States of America.

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