Working people today are confronting a political challenge that
may be more far-reaching in its consequences than any in the more
than two centuries of our republic's existence. An unprecedented
flood of corporate campaign contributions has raised the stakes
in federal elections to the point where few candidates for any office
remain immune to its siren song.
This massive outpouring of corporate cash is financing a relentless
assault on our jobs, our rights as workers and the security of our
families and communities. From NAFTA and GATT to the WTO and PNTR,
multinational corporations and Wall Street financiers have concocted
an alphabet soup of anti-worker legislation and job-destroying trade
rules designed to level the cost of doing business to its lowest
global denominator. As a result, workers around the world are suffering,
human rights are under attack and the environment is at greater
risk. All have gotten in the way of the drive to maximize profits
by seeking the cheapest labor and the least taxation and regulation.
Corporate bagmen roam the halls of Congress and the executive branch,
corrupting Republicans and Democrats alike with their destructive
agenda. When politicians of both major parties are marinated in
corporate money, the greatest threat to working people's security
comes not from right-wing zealots, but from our so-called friends,
many of whom have double-crossed working families time and again.
Now more than ever, issues are more important than party labels.
And while Democratic control of both Congress and the White House
remain desirable, it is largely because Republican control is so
Some might say this analysis points to an endorsement of Ralph
Nader for president. The United Steelworkers of America feel differently.
More than most, our union's members have demonstrated a willingness
to challenge the corporate agenda in all its forms, whether on the
picket line, in the halls of Congress or on the streets of Seattle.
And far more often than not, we have found ourselves working shoulder-to-shoulder
with Ralph Nader, whether the issue was health and safety on the
job, the ability of workers to organize, or opposition to job-destroying
Yet by overwhelming margins, our membership supports the candidacy
of Al Gore over that of any other candidate, not because the vice
president represents the lesser of two evils, but because he consistently
has supported working Americans throughout his political career.
It was this outspoken and decades-long support for workers rights
that first won Gore the Steelworkers' endorsement last October.
If anything, the vice president has gotten stronger on the issues
as time has passed. And for working Americans, the differences between
Gore and George W. Bush are crucial:
* Gore would ban the destructive use of permanent replacement
workers in strikes. Bush would not.
* Gore would champion reform of our nation's labor laws to make
it possible for workers to organize without employer interference.
George Bush would push for a national "right-to-work" law to make
organizing even harder.
* Gore would strengthen Social Security and Medicare, and push
for universal access of all Americans to health care. Bush, on the
other hand, supports risky privatization schemes that threaten seniors'
security and presides over a state that ranks next to last in people
with health care coverage.
* Gore consistently has supported increases in the federal minimum
wage, while Bush defends a state minimum wage in Texas that's nearly
$2 per hour lower than the federal minimum.
Absent his allegiance to the current administration's trade policies--which
are no different than those of the past three administrations, Republican
or Democrat--Al Gore has consistently supported working people's
rights since his first election to Congress. He's even crisscrossed
the country supporting the right to strike.
But even on trade, there are crucial differences between Gore and
Bush. In contrast to current trade policy, which the governor wholeheartedly
supports, the vice president has promised to push global labor standards
upward and integrate labor rights and environmental concerns into
international trade agreements.
While Nader's positions on workers rights, global trade and corporate
accountability may be closer to some of labor's positions, the differences
between Gore and Nader pale in comparison to the differences between
Gore and Bush--with one crucial exception. Either Gore or Bush will
win the election. Nader won't.
If Bush wins the election, we can look forward at least four years
of open season on workers and their unions, with frontal assaults
on our ability to organize, participate on an equal basis in the
political process and even govern our own organizations.
A Gore administration, at the very least, would give American workers
the room to build on the gains we've made over the past eight years.
At best, we will find the kind of support for working families that
we've sought for nearly 30 years.
George Becker is international president of the United
Steelworkers of America.
Now read Kay McVay's response, "Nader
is Best for Labor"