Working Folks Reject Bush

by Mark Spadafore

All working families have plenty at stake in the 2004 election. African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, young people and union members have all suffered under the Bush administration. The list is just staggering on the failure of Bush’s policies to create a better life for working Americans:

· George W. Bush has taken no stand on the Employee Free Choice Act, co-sponsored by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), which allows workers to join a union free from employer intimidation, harassment and threats.
· We have lost 1.7 million private-sector jobs since George W. Bush took office. The unemployment rate for teenagers has jumped by 24% since Bush took office, and the unemployment rate for 20 to 24 year-old workers rose by 23%. The jobless rate among African Americans is 10.4%, up 27% since January 2001.
· Rather than protecting immigrant workers and providing a clear path to legal status, Bush’s immigration “reform” plan would allow employers to increasingly exploit vulnerable temporary workers. Bush’s plan allows immigrants to come to the US to work but requires them to return home without a chance to become citizens.
· Hundreds of thousands of Asian Pacific Americans have been separated from their close family members because there has been a 59% increase over the past two years in the number of visa backlogs for family reunifications.
· Bush has exploited national security concerns to take away the collective bargaining rights of more than 230,000 federal workers in various government agencies.
· Nearly 45 million people had no health insurance in 2003, a 13% increase since Bush took office in 2001. Young people (18 to 34 years old) make up more than half of the uninsured. Some 19.4% of African Americans lack health care coverage, compared with 14.7% of whites.
· Latinos are more likely than other workers to be fatally injured on the job. Yet the Bush administration has joined with business groups to kill, roll back and block key worker safety protections. The Bush administration has the worst record on safety rules in the entire history of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
· Bush opposes Davis-Bacon prevailing wage laws for construction workers, saying they’re wasteful. In one of his first actions after taking office, Bush issued an Executive Order outlawing project labor agreements for federal projects, which set wage and benefit standards and working conditions for an entire project, union or nonunion, and which also prevent strikes and lockouts.
· Bush cut $270 million from the Federal Pell Grant program for college students and approved changes that dropped 84,000 students from the eligibility rolls for Pell Grants, while reducing financial aid to hundreds of thousands of others.
· Bush sided with the opponents of affirmative action when the Bush administration filed a brief before the US Supreme Court supporting a suit to kill the University of Michigan’s affirmative action program.
· Bush is trying to pack the federal courts with extremist judges hostile to civil rights, workers’ rights and consumers’ rights. One such Bush appointee, Charles Pickering, sought to reduce the sentence of a man convicted of cross burning.
· Bush has fought against raising the national minimum wage. Many first-time workers, college students and other young people hold minimum wage jobs. The minimum wage has not been increased since 1997.
· Bush opposes using federal tax dollars to modernize and repair the crumbling substandard schools attended by some one million children.
· The number of African Americans in poverty rose by 647,000 to 8.8 million between 2001 and 2003, now nearly double the overall US poverty rate.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is a clear contrast with George Bush on many of the issues most important to working people. Since Congress will largely stay in the hands of people who do not value peace and economic justice in our communities, we must remain equally vigilant after the election.

The government remains largely beholden to corporate interests who want to preserve the status quo. We on the left need to fight against these interests and hold President Kerry’s feet to the fire on each of these issues. Election Day is just step one in our fight to make a better world for ourselves and our children. It is up to us to continue the struggle until corporate interests are defeated and working class people can live with the respect, dignity and peace we all deserve.

Mark is the Field Coordinator of the Central New York Labor Federation/AFL-CIO.