Jimmy Carter photo

New York, New York Remarks at a Meeting With New York Labor Leaders.

October 10, 1980

Mr. Motisani,1 President Van Arsdale,2 Senator Moynihan, Governor Carey, all the distinguished leaders here who represent so many thousands of working people throughout this State:

I'm very sorry that Ray Corbett 3 can't be with us because of the unfortunate death of his beloved wife, Helen, and I know that all of you will extend to him my regrets and my concerns and my prayers and the best wishes from me and from my wife, Rosalynn.

In the last 4 years I've become proud and very fond of two favorite songs. One of them is "Hail to the Chief." I want to hear it a lot more in the next 4 years. And the other one is "Look for the Union Label," and I want to hear that one a lot more as well.

This afternoon, in the brief period of time together, I'd like to remind you, as working people and as leaders of working people, how important this crucial election is, not just for me as President but for the labor movement itself and for every working man and woman and their family throughout the length and breadth of this country. This election is not about who debates whom. The election is not about who's ahead in the polls. The election is not about who says what about the other candidate. The election in less than 3 weeks involves very serious consequences for you, for the people whom you love, and for the people whom you represent.

Sometimes we tend to forget how much this election will affect our future. The choice could not be clearer. There is a much more profound difference between me and Governor Reagan that there ever was between me and President Ford just 4 years ago. It's the sharpest possible difference in basic philosophy and commitment in public statements on issues that affect working people.

On the one side is a Republican candidate who in 1976 persuaded President Ford to reverse his solemn promise to the working people that he would not veto a common situs bill, and my opponent talked President Ford into vetoing the common situs bill. On the other side, you've got a Democratic administration that has fought for common situs and will go on fighting for it along with you until it's passed into law.

On one side is a Republican candidate who says, and I quote, about Davis-Bacon, "This is a gift of tax funds to the privileged workers." On the other side is a Democratic administration that has successfully fought off nine different times Republican attempts to repeal Davis-Bacon, and if such a bill ever gets to my desk while you've got a Democratic President in the Oval Office, I will veto it and, you can count on that.

On one side you've got a Republican candidate who said to a proposal last year to abolish the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA—his reply was, "Amen." On the other side, you've got a Democratic administration that has strengthened OSHA and has focused its activities on the real health and safety problems of the workplace.

On one side is a Republican candidate who said this year that labor law reform, and I quote, "is a bill that should be defeated." On the other side is a Democratic administration that's fought for labor law reform, and we'll go on fighting for it, with you, until it's passed into law.

I remember, as you do, during the Depression years, when Franklin Roosevelt put forward the idea of social security. The Republicans opposed it, but a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President put it into law.

I remember back in the Depression years when a Democratic President proposed the minimum wage to eliminate the sweatshops and let working families live a decent life. At that time the minimum wage proposal was 25 cents. The Democrats put it across. The Republicans opposed it. My first job as a young high school graduate, minimum wage was 40 cents—10 hours a day. The Democrats supported it. The Republicans were against it.

I'm running against a man who hasn't changed that basic, negative Republican philosophy, because this year he said, and I quote again, "The minimum wage has caused more misery and more unemployment than anything since the Great Depression." On the other side you've got a Democratic administration, as you know, that has enacted phased, predictable, automatic increases in the minimum wage that let our lowest paid workers live a decent life now and forever more and not wait 6 years every time to get what they deserve.

I know what it means to have temporary unemployment, And I know how devastating it is to a family's life when the income is no longer there and the children are still hungry and need clothes, need to go to school. On one side you've got a Republican candidate who has called recipients of unemployment compensation, and I quote again, "freeloaders wanting a prepaid vacation plan." On the other side, you've got a Democratic administration now fighting for—and it will succeed in getting—an extension of unemployment compensation insurance for workers in hard-hit industries.

The conscience of American labor has always extended beyond even those crucial issues that affect your own members. Let me list very quickly just a few of those issues, because you ought to have these in mind every day, because they concern you, not only as labor leaders but as national leaders representing the best elements of our country.

The first is energy. The Republican candidate who fought against the windfall profits tax on the oil companies summed up his energy program this way, and I quote him again, "What needs to be done is for the Government to repeal the energy legislation. We must abolish the Department of Energy, and then turn the industry, that is, the oil companies loose to make those decisions for us."

This Democratic administration has fought successfully, as you know, for the windfall profits tax, for a massive program for better urban transportation to help develop American energy, to give us aid for poor families to pay their fuel bills, and to reduce our imports more than onethird in the last year alone. Every drop of oil that we do not have to buy from OPEC increases our economic security and our national security. We must not allow our progress on energy to be reversed.

The second item, as important perhaps to family life as energy, is health. The Republican candidate against whom I run began his public career as a politician traveling around this country as a leader opposing Medicare. He says now, and I quote, "I am firmly opposed to national health insurance." This Democratic President shares with you a commitment to a national health plan and to all the great programs of better social life this country has adopted under Democratic Presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The third issue that affects every one of you is the cities of America. You all know that the Republican candidate used to boast about praying that the Federal Government would never bail out New York City. I'm sure the Lord heard that prayer, but like all of you, I'm glad that after due consideration, the Lord made the right decision— [laughter] —with a little help from those here below who've worked so hard on it.

The Republican candidate also said just a few months ago, and I quote him again, "Urban aid programs are one of the biggest phonies that we have in the system." There are some people in this room who might give him an argument about that, and I'm one of them. We Democrats have pushed through the first comprehensive national urban policy in our history, and we stand by our commitment to New York and to all the great cities of America.

I'm no newcomer to the object of finishing the decision on Westway. I am absolutely committed to DOT funding of that expressway. I am also committed to having the earliest possible resolution of the permits that you need to get this system expedited.

And the last subject I want to mention to you is human rights. The Republican candidate has criticized many times our human rights policy as being against the best interests of the United States. This Democratic President believes the American Government should stand up for American values. The workers of Poland have proven that human rights is a universal longing and a universal goal. As long as I am President we will hold high the banner of human rights.

Let me say this: This is a tough race. The polls say that we may be behind. The Republicans are outspending us millions of dollars. Rightwing groups are plowing tens of millions of dollars into the television, radio, newspapers, against Democratic candidates throughout this country. They are not charged against Governor Ronald Reagan's campaign. They're proposing themselves and are posing as friends of working people .as they do every 4 years, before reverting to form once again as soon as the election is over. But even if the Republicans can't win the votes of labor members and working people, they are hoping to discourage it.

Governor Reagan's labor adviser told the New York Times, talking about you, and I quote again, "I don't want these people," he said, "to vote for Reagan. I don't want them to vote. I want them to stay home." We cannot let them get away with that cynical strategy. Fritz Mondale and I are going to need the help of every one of you and a lot more besides. New York is extremely important in this effort.

For the sake of everything we've done in the past, under Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Jack Kennedy, all the Democrats, for the sake of everything we'll do together in the future, let's get our message across to every single working family in New York. We have less than 3 weeks to go. So, let's every one of us buckle down and work together as partners. We need a victory, for myself, for Walter Mondale, for the entire New York Democratic ticket, and most of all, for the beliefs and the convictions and the ideals that we all share.

Together we can make the greatest nation on Earth even greater, but let me remind you of this: Coming to this meeting is not enough. Announcing that you are for me and Fritz Mondale is not enough. Sending out a newsletter outlining the devastating effect of Ronald Reagan's election is not enough. What we need the next 3 weeks is workers on the street, in the polling places, in public meetings, letting your voice be heard so that every person in this country that works for a living know the crucial issues at stake.

I do not intend to lose this election, and with your help, the Democrats will have a tremendous victory and whip the Republicans on November the 4th.

Thank you very much.

1 Secretary-Treasurer, New York AFL-CIO.

2 President, New York State Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

3 President, New York AFL-CIO.

Note: The President spoke at 5:36 p.m. in Royal Ballroom "A" at the Sheraton Centre Hotel.

Jimmy Carter, New York, New York Remarks at a Meeting With New York Labor Leaders. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251240

Filed Under




New York

Simple Search of Our Archives