John Edwards photo

Radio Address to the Nation

August 21, 2004

Good morning. I'm John Edwards.

When I was in college, one of my jobs was unloading tractor trailers. It was hard work in the summer heat in North Carolina.

But at the end of the shift, after unloading box after box off those trucks, you felt satisfied with a job well done and a check for your hard work.

Over the years, I have worked along side many people who did their job well and worked overtime to earn a little extra money to pay the bills and take care of their families.

During that summer, I learned about dignity and self-respect and about a basic American value—hard work is rewarded in this country.

What I did that summer wasn't unique. There are millions of young people working right now—even on a Saturday—and learning this invaluable lesson.

This isn't a complicated idea and John Kerry and I believe that it is the foundation of this country. If you work hard, then you should be rewarded for that effort. It is a time-honored tradition. It is what built this country. And it is a fundamental American value that we must always protect and strengthen.

So then why would anyone want to undermine and weaken what work means in this country?

Why would anyone want to take overtime pay away from as many as six million Americans at a time when they need that money the most?

And why would anyone support this new rule which could mean a pay cut for millions of Americans who have already seen their real wages drop again this year?

Today, everywhere in America, families sit at the kitchen table and divide the bills into two piles: one says "pay now" and the other says "pay later."

You're worrying that this week's paycheck won't cover last week's doctor's bill.

That it won't cover the mortgage and the college tuition bill.

And that it won't pay for the back-to-school clothes for your kids and the gas you need to drive to the mall.

Working Americans have to tighten their belts in this economy, and on Monday that belt's about to get a whole lot tighter when this new overtime law starts working.

If you're a computer programmer, you could lose your overtime.

If you work as a line cook, your employer could cut your overtime.

If you keep our streets and neighborhoods safe as a police sergeant, your government could lock away your overtime.

And if you are a nursery school teacher, preparing your classroom for another school year, don't make any number charts that go over forty because anything higher than that just doesn't count in this administration.

What's hard to believe is that your government actually provided your employer with their very own How-to-Guide to deny you your hard-earned money.

Last January, they created a handbook with very specific and detailed ways for them to avoid their responsibility.

Well, it doesn't have to be this way and John and I will make sure they meet their responsibilities.

John and I believe that we don't need changes that deny workers their overtime pay, we need a president who'll work overtime for you.

We want to build one America with one economy that works for everyone.

We know that too many Americans are struggling to get by, and it is time to build an America that rewards work again.

First, we can create good paying jobs right here. Our plan will stop giving tax breaks to companies that outsource your jobs.

Instead, we will give tax breaks to American companies that keep jobs here in America. And we will invest in the jobs of the future—in the technologies and innovation to ensure that America stays ahead of the competition.

We will do this because for us a job is about more than a paycheck—it's about dignity and self respect.

John and I don't want people to just get by; we want people to get ahead. So let me give you some specifics about how we're going to do that.

To help you pay for health care, a tax break and health care reform to lower your premiums up to $1,000. To help you cover the rising costs of child care, a tax credit up to $1,000 to cover those costs so your kids have a safe place to go while you're at work. To help your child have the same chance I had and be the first person in your family to go to college, a tax break on up to $4,000 in tuition.

And to make sure that your hard work can pay your bills and give you the chance to get ahead, we will raise the minimum wage to $7 an hour.

What our leaders value shows in what they fight for.

And you can take this to the bank—John and I will work overtime to build an economy that values work, not just wealth; creates good paying jobs here, and ensures if you work overtime as a police sergeant or as a teacher teaching our youngest students to count—that work will always count in the one America we build together.

Thank you for listening.

John Edwards, Radio Address to the Nation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project