Labor Day Statement
Southern Maine Labor Council, Portland - Eastern Maine Labor Council, Brewer
September 4, 2006
On this Labor Day, I want to thank all workers, in Maine and across the nation, for doing the jobs you do every day. Labor Day is the day when we recognize that, collectively, the workers of America are the driving force in this country.

Individually, what we do for work often defines who we are. At its best, that work involves using our talents and skills to do productive work that is respected and pays well.

The concept of getting and keeping a good job at decent pay to support oneself and one's family is at the very heart of the American Dream. I believe it is the job of Congress to maintain and promote a thriving economy in this country. And that means doing whatever is necessary to keep Americans working.

One program that would certainly help is national health care. The massive layoffs at General Motors are a stark example of what our lack of national health care is doing to our economy. If unions did not have health care costs as a bargaining issue, contracts would be easier to negotiate. And I've heard from dozens of people who would love to start a small business, but who are keeping their day jobs because the family needs the health care benefits. National health care would give our economy a long-needed kick-start.

So would a minimum wage that is a living wage.

And with most workers changing jobs several times during their working lives, pensions must be as portable as Social Security. And Social Security must be stabilized, by lifting the cap on wages, by extending FICA to unearned income, or by any number of other solutions.

The point is that, as a nation, we need to recognize our government's responsibilities toward our poor, our elderly, our retired, and our disabled, and to act accordingly.

We also need to address NAFTA and CAFTA, and the outsourcing of high-paying jobs. It doesn't matter how much education you have, if no one in America will hire you for a job you're trained to do.

If we get a Democratic majority back in Congress, we have a chance of withdrawing from both so-called free trade agreements. We can also change the laws so the outsourcing of jobs becomes harder and less cost-effective. Bring those jobs home, now.

Of course before we can do any of this, Congress needs to deal with two elephants in the room - the Iraq War and the tax breaks for the rich. The Republicans are driving this country into bankruptcy by waging a horribly expensive and tragically unnecessary war. At the same time they give obscene tax cuts to their wealthy friends, leaving us working stiffs to pay the bills.

Is this the country we want to live in?

My name is Jean Hay Bright, and I'm the Democrat running for U.S. Senate in Maine.

How Maine votes in November will make a difference in what happens next in this country. We need to work together. And we need to vote for the America we all want to live in.