OPINION: Building A New American Dream For America's Workers

By Anna Burger, Change to Win Chair

As Americans come together today to celebrate Labor Day, the seven unions and six million members of Change to Win are committed to restoring the American Dream for America’s workers – just as our unions did for generations before.

Over the past two years, Change to Win has asked workers in surveys and focus groups to assess the American Dream for themselves and their families, and what we’ve found is both dramatic and powerful. Consistently America’s workers overwhelmingly believe in the American Dream—work that is respected, wages that can support a family, affordable health care, a secure retirement and the opportunity for a better life for their children. This election year working families are more enthusiastic and motivated than ever before and are looking to the next president to help renew the Dream.

But they also believe the Dream is at risk. Our latest findings show that America’s workers are moving from anxiety to anger to action. Decades of decline in wage and benefit levels, the shift of income and wealth from the many to the few, and the unrelenting corporate attack on worker organization has eroded the foundations of the American Dream.

America’s working families want a new direction. They want government action that will create a new infrastructure for a new American Dream. They do not want a safety net to fall into—they want a platform to rise from.

They want government action that will guarantee affordable health care for all. They want a tax system where the rich pay their fair share, government action to make sure employers keep their promises to workers, and a retirement system that provides economic security. They want a voice at work on their wages and their working conditions, and want to be empowered through their own organizations to balance the power of global corporations. Workers want sustainable economic growth.

The infrastructure of the American Dream begins with the rights of workers. Empowered workers will create the new Dream for the 21st century. With unions, workers can win wages that reward their work and support their families. With unions, workers will have a voice in the political process to win health and pension reform, a fair tax system and fair trade agreements.

Our survey has also found that workers overwhelmingly see Barack Obama as the candidate best representing the values and vision of the American Dream. They believe he understands their struggles and is more likely to improve wages and working conditions. He is the candidate that will help create the new American Dream.

Change to Win members are committed to working harder than ever before to elect leaders this November who will change the direction of our country and renew the American Dream for America’s workers.

We will spend tens of millions of dollars and thousands of volunteer hours to contact members at their worksites, homes and communities every day between now and November 4th to make sure Barack Obama is elected president and pro-worker majorities are put in the United States Congress. With a comprehensive mail, phone and canvass effort in thirteen battleground states, including a full-time, coordinated member-to-member canvass with 1,500 member canvassers, more than 10 million pieces of direct mail and 20 million phone calls, the unions of Change to Win will educate our members and turn out an historic vote this November.

Change to Win is an organization formed by seven partner unions: International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Laborers’ International Union of North America, Service Employees International Union, UNITE HERE, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, United Farm Workers of America, and United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. Their stated objective is "to build a new movement of working people equipped to meet the challenges of the global economy and restore the American Dream in the 21st century: a paycheck that can support a family, affordable health care, a secure retirement and dignity on the job."

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