U.S. Representative Dennis J. Kucinich
The Iowa AFL-CIO
Monday, February 17, 2003
Brothers and Sisters. I am Dennis Kucinich.
I am a dues-paying member of the camera operator's union,
IATSE Local 600, of the AFL-CIO. Tomorrow I am filing papers
in Washington, DC to explore becoming President of the United
States of America. Let us make 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue the
address of Worker's Local Number One.
On this President's Day 2003, let us reflect
upon another address. One made at Gettysburg, where Lincoln
prayed that "a government of the people, by the people
and for the people shall not perish from this earth."
If I am elected President, this union membership card will
be placed on my desk as a reminder that in America the people
You are the "people" to whom the
spirit of Lincoln speaks today. You in this room and you,
who clean the streets of snow, who pick up the garbage, repair
the potholes, keep the tap water running, keep the lights
burning, and put out the fires. You, who plant and grow America's
food, who sell the food in supermarkets, who prepare and serve
it in restaurants. You, who drive the trucks and buses that
deliver people and goods. You who work at the post office
and deliver the mail. You who protect our neighborhoods. You
who protect the future by educating our children. You who
protect our health, who nurse the sick. You who make steel,
who make machines which turn the wheels of society, make cars
coursing through the streets of big cities, make trains which
stream across the country side, and planes which soar through
the air. It is you and you. You are the people of whom Lincoln
spoke when he proclaimed a government of the people, by the
people and for the people.
This election is about your right to have
a government you can call your own, a people's President,
a Workers' White House.
We know workers' influence has been diminished
in our national government. The passage of NAFTA was proof
enough. NAFTA promised new manufacturing jobs, but NAFTA has
been devastating to America's workers. Three million jobs,
many of them in manufacturing, have been lost since NAFTA
passed. Each lost job represents dreams deferred or shattered.
Each lost job represents a family and a home that was threatened.
Health insurance that was lost. Retirement benefits jeopardized.
Children's educational opportunities postponed. The US Trade
deficit was $417 billion in 2001. NAFTA has exported jobs
and imported poverty
NAFTA promised new export markets for US
farm products. US farming had a trade surplus with Canada
and Mexico between 1991 and 1994. That surplus has fallen
by $1.5 billion since NAFTA. Let's look at how farm commodity
prices have been affected. Between the 1994-95 growing season
and the 1999-2000 growing season, US corn export volume fell
by 11% and prices fell by 20%. Wheat exports dropped 8%, prices
dropped 28%. Cotton exports down 28%, prices down 38%. NAFTA
has accelerated the decline of small farms. Farms with sales
under $100,000 are being lost at a rate which is six times
greater than the rate before NAFTA went into effect.
NAFTA undermined workers' bargaining power.
It has given corporations the ability to threaten to move
unless cuts in wages and benefits are accepted. It has given
multinational corporations the ability to sue governments
which pass laws to protect the rights of workers, the environment
or human rights if such laws affected their profitability.
NAFTA has put profit above human health, human life and human
decency. This is called free trade. They trade and we give
up our freedom. NAFTA has cancelled workers' rights to economic
What would a Workers' White House do? As
President of the United States, my first act in office will
be to cancel NAFTA . Under the agreement any party can give
six months notice and withdraw from NAFTA.
I will exercise that authority and return
America to a bilateral trading system: Trade with nations
on the condition that they abide by principles of workers
rights, minimum wages, human rights, no child labor, and environmental
protection in their own countries.
An American president can restore the balance
of power which has shifted through NAFTA, the WTO, and the
International Monetary Fund, which has resulted not only in
an undermining of the position of the American worker, but
an increase in poverty world wide.
The sign over the headquarters of the World
Bank? says: "Our dream is a world without poverty."
The nightmare is that three billion people live on less than
two dollars a day.
"Despite repeated promises . . . the
number of people living in poverty has actually increased
by almost 100 million. This has occurred at the same time
that total world income has increased by an average of 2.5%
annually," Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Steiglitz.
We cannot lift the cause of workers abroad
unless the economic status and the rights of American workers
What would a Workers White House look like?
The current White House undermined collective bargaining and
invoked Taft-Hartley to require Longshoremen who were locked
out to go to back to work under terms of the existing contract.
It was reported that the White House was considering using
Navy longshoremen to replace longshoremen union workers in
NAFTA has placed the power of the federal
government in the hands of multinational corporations, the
White House used Taft Hartley to put the power of the federal
government on the side of the employers.
What would a Workers' White House look like?
It would protect the right to strike. ". . . There is
no other bargaining but collective bargaining," civil
rights attorney Clarence Darrow said. As President I will
reject any request to force workers back to work against their
will. Employers would have to negotiate in good faith with
What would a Workers' White House look like?
It would fight every single day for national health care for
all. No one in America should be without adequate health care.
No one should be afraid to go to a doctor because they cannot
pay for it. No one should have to worry about losing everything
they have worked for in life because of a major illness.
Globalization, NAFTA, and national health
care are three issues which even Democratic candidates do
not want to talk about. I'll tell you a fourth. Everyone knows
it is the sons and daughters of America's working men and
women who are the first called into battle. It has always
been that way. Except this Administration has not made its
case to go to war against Iraq.
I am the only candidate in this race who
actually voted against the war, who led the efforts in the
House of Representatives over the last year, who organized
126 Democrats to vote against the war.
The facts are these: Iraq was not responsible
for 911, for Al-Qaeda's role in 911, for the anthrax attacks
on our country. The Administration has not made its case for
war. Iraq does not have missile technology which can reach
our shores. Iraq has not been demonstrated to have usable
weapons of mass destruction.
Inspections should continue. They worked
before. They can work again. Iraq was contained. It can continue
to be contained. America's power is a deterrence to an attack
by any nation.
This war is wrong. It puts at risk the lives
of our servicemen and service women. It puts at risk the lives
of innocent civilians in Iraq. Surely everyone understands
that if we kill thousands of civilians, anger against America
will rise and we will increasingly become less safe here at
We have a right to defend ourselves. It is
a foundational principle. We also have an obligation not to
make America less safe. Every grade school athlete knows the
difference between defense and offense and America is about
to go on the offensive in the world, for empire, for oil but
not for us. This Administration, which is run by energy interests,
gave a trillion dollar tax cut to the rich and is prepared
to accelerate the transfer of wealth through a war which will
cost at least $200 billion dollars and perhaps much more.
No money for health care. No money for child care. No money
for living wages. No money for Social Security. No money for
Medicare. Only money for tax cuts for the rich and only money
for war. That's your money they are spending to send your
sons and daughters to their war. And in the end corporate
interests will win while fresh new graves will be dug on two
What would a Worker's White House do? Protect
this nation when we are attacked, but not attack another nation
so we are forced to protect the nation once again. Use diplomacy
to work for disarmament everywhere, not only in Iraq. We have
proven that deterrence is the way to avert annihilation. It
is the only way. Once we set these weapons at work in the
world the situation goes out of control and war breaks loose
around the world.
Once again the hopes of people of two nations
are being smashed by weapons in the name of eliminating weapons.
Let us abolish weapons of mass destruction at home. Corporate
control of government is a weapon of mass destruction. Joblessness
is a weapon of mass destruction. Poverty is a weapon of mass
destruction. Homelessness is a weapon of mass destruction.
Poor health care is a weapon of mass destruction. Poor education
is a weapon of mass destruction. Discrimination is weapon
of mass destruction.
Let us use hundreds of billions of our tax
dollars instead for the restoration of the dreams of the American
worker, to rebuild our economy and to expand opportunities
for all. We have a duty to assert our human needs as a people
and not to yield them for the base concerns of an unresponsive
government: We have a right to a job. We have a right to decent
housing. We have a right to health care. Peace is a precondition
which makes all other rights possible.
Peace will protect the rights of workers.
The administration has already used national security to try
to roll back the rights of the American Federation of Government
Employees. It is attempting to frustrate efforts of airport
security workers to organize. Its anti-worker agenda includes
not only strike breaking, attacking collective bargaining,
it also includes cheating workers out of time and a half for
overtime. This is the moment for workers all over America
to strengthen the cause of peace and for all those who work
for peace to rally to the cause of the American worker.
You can change the course of this election.
Labor has the power. You, Iowa's union members, are the gatekeepers
to the Democratic nomination. I call on you to use your power
to put globalization on the agenda. Use your power to put
NAFTA back on the table. Use your power to put national health
insurance back on the table. And let's stop this war before
it startsŠI ask you to consider using your power to choose
a nominee from the House of Labor, one of Labor's sons, one
of your brothers. You can change the course of this election.
What would a Worker's White House do? It
would unite people. It would show them their power. It would
work for prosperity and peace. It would create solidarity.
The kind of solidarity which birthed this nation, the kind
of solidarity which births unions, the kind of solidarity
which will create a rebirth in America.