Bill Clinton photo

Remarks on Labor Day in Bath, Maine

September 05, 1994

Ladies and gentlemen, I know it's raining and the work you've done. And I want to thank here today, but you have brought a lot of sun-you for coming out in the rain to stand up shine into my life by the example you've set for the interests of the working families of America on this Labor Day. Thank you for being here.

I thank our great labor leaders Tom Donahue and George Kourpias for being here. I want to thank Buzz Fitzgerald and Stoney Dionne. Tom talked about the ironworks being run by two guys named Buzz and Stoney. It sounded like a television series. [Laughter] If you do what I expect you to do here, we may get a television series out of this yet.

I also want to say a special word of thanks to my good friend Joe Brennan for being here and for presenting himself as a candidate for Governor again, to Senator Dutremble and Senator Baldacci for being willing to run for Congress at a time when it's not a very popular place to be, but it's still an important place to be. And I want to say a special word of thanks to Tom Andrews for his leadership in the United States Congress to help us rebuild the shipbuilding industry in America and help turn this economy around.

And of course, most of all I want to thank my good friend George Mitchell. You know, if George had been commissioner of baseball, they'd be back playing again now. And I might say on this Labor Day, there's still time for them to go back to work and finish the best baseball season in 50 years, and I hope they will.

Folks, most of what needs to be said here today has been said. But for a century now people have been gathering on Labor Day to celebrate the dignity of work, its importance to our lives, and to have that last long weekend before school starts again and we all go back to work full-time.

I ran for President because I thought this country was in danger of going in the wrong direction and because I thought that our people had it within them to keep the American dream alive into the 21st century for our children and our grandchildren. And I believed then just as strongly as I believe today that we have to have a plan, a strategy, a vision of what we wish our country to be like and how we're going to get there.

If we're going to keep the American dream of opportunity alive for everybody who's willing to work hard and play by the rules, I believe we must do three things: We have to have an economy that works, we have to empower our people to succeed and win in that economy, and we've got to come together again as a community and work together. We cannot afford in a global economy to be divided again, Government and business and workers fighting each other all the time, people in this country finding ways to get in fights with each other instead of ways to pull together and make this country great again.

And our administration has fought for change against some very, very powerful enemies of change, against people who often don't seem to understand what the stakes are because that's what I want for you and your families and your children.

You heard Senator Mitchell say that we began with an economic strategy to get this terrible deficit down. The debt of this country was quadrupled in 12 years. We are bringing the deficit down for 3 years in a row for the first time since Harry Truman was President. We are doing it by cutting spending, asking the wealthiest 1.5 percent to pay more taxes, and providing tax breaks to 15 million working families that are hovering just above the poverty line because we want them to keep working and raising their children, not going into the welfare system. In the State of Maine alone, almost 61,000 families got a tax cut, and only 3,700 got a tax increase. It was a good deal for Maine. It was a good deal for America. And if it hadn't been for Tom Andrews and George Mitchell, the plan would have failed, because we passed it by the narrowest of margins over the enemies of change.

We have expanded trade. We have expanded educational and training opportunity. But maybe most important of all on this Labor Day, we have called for new partnerships in shipbuilding, in airplane building, in automobiles, in agriculture. The partnership here that you've heard these people detail between labor and management is the thing I came here to highlight. Even in the driving rain, the rest of America should know that if you can take a 110-yearold company and redesign the relationship of labor and management in a new partnership and ask the National Government to help you to build a commercial future as well as a defense future, then every manufacturing facility in America can do the same, and we can rebuild this economy on the strength of your example.

For the first time in 10 years, manufacturing jobs in America have increased now for 8 months in a row. They're a part of that 4.1 million jobs that George Mitchell talked about. And as we look ahead from this Labor Day, let us leave here rededicating ourselves to meet the other challenges that face us, to keep this economic recovery going, to keep this partnership between business and labor and a partnership with Government going, to keep working until every American can have the education and training opportunities he or she needs to compete and win, to keep working until we turn the terrible situation we have in health care around where we're spending more and covering less.

This is the only advanced country in the world that spends 40 percent more than everybody else, and we're still losing people with health insurance. There are 5 million people in working families just like yours who had health insurance a year ago, 5 years ago, who don't have it today. My friends, we can do better. And until we do better, we will pay the price.

And let us continue our efforts to change the way the political system works. We need more examples of what we had with the crime bill, where we broke through gridlock and a few brave Republicans stood up to their leadership and said, "The American people want a solution to the crime problems. It's not a partisan problem. It's an American problem, and we're going to work on it together." We need that in other examples as well. We need the Congress to pass the laws reforming the lobbying practices and the campaign finance practices in Washington, to help to free people to make the courageous decisions that have to be made.

And finally let me say this, and I want to close with this because I want you to think about this as you leave. We've got to get out of here, or we're going to raise health care costs by staying in the rain too long. [Laughter] We can create more jobs. We can empower you to seize those jobs. But unless we get back to good, old-fashioned American values of working together in partnership, we're still not going to do what we ought to do. Everybody is for change in general, but they can always find a reason to be against it in particular. Believe me, there will never be a bill in Congress that is perfect, because we are not perfect people. There is always some reason we can find to say no, to turn away from tomorrow, to be divided from our friends and neighbors.

This Bath Iron Works is coming back because Stoney and Buzz and all the other people put aside their differences to find something they could say yes to. This is going to happen in America because this administration is working with the tools we have to rebuild the American economy in partnership, not sitting on the sidelines and not promising you miracles but promising you progress.

And I ask you as you leave here today to reward people in public life who will say yes to America, who will look for ways to come together, not be divided, who will ask you to be courageous enough to face the tough decisions. That's the real way to make sure we have a 21st century where the rain brings the sunshine.

Thank you, and God bless you all. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:25 a.m. at the Bath Iron Works shipyard. In his remarks, he referred to Tom Donahue, secretary-treasurer, AFL-CIO; George Kourpias, international president, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM); Duane (Buzz) Fitzgerald, president and chief executive officer, Bath Iron Works Corp.; John (Stoney) Dionne, president, IAM Local S6; John E. Baldacci, Maine State senator; and Dennis L. Dutremble, president, Maine Senate.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on Labor Day in Bath, Maine Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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