John F. Kerry photo

Remarks to the Building Trades Legislative Conference

March 31, 2004

I'm sorry I couldn't be with you all today. As you may know, I'm about to go in for some minor surgery on my right shoulder. Always seems like I'm having some problems with the right wing these days.

We know that we have a long fight ahead of us – and we know that for working Americans everywhere, the stakes in this election have never been higher.

Since George Bush took office, three million Americans have lost their jobs. Long-term unemployment is at its highest level in twenty years and manufacturing jobs are at a fifty year low. Four million more have lost their health insurance, and the middle-class's share of the tax burden has gone up while wages have gone down. This President has tried to cut overtime pay for millions of working Americans. And today, the one millionth American has lost their unemployment benefits because this President refused to extend them one day longer.

Working Americans deserve better. You deserve the ability to get ahead in return for hard work. You deserve a President who will stand up for the right to organize. You deserve a Secretary of Labor from the House of Labor. And most importantly, you deserve a President who puts jobs first. That's why last week I laid out my plan to create 10 million jobs in four years. We'll do it by ending the incentives for companies to ship jobs overseas, and by creating new incentives for businesses to create good jobs right here at home.

We look around this country and we see that there is so much work to be done in America.

And America looks to you to do what you've done for a century – to build tomorrow's America – to build a future we can be proud of.

That means providing the funding necessary to address America's infrastructure deficit -- new schools, new hospitals, new roads and bridges for the 21st century.

That means protecting the prevailing wage. It means strengthening – not weakening – the Apprentice Training programs that teach young Americans a skill for life. America isn't hurting because we need more cheap labor, we're hurting because we need more highly skilled construction workers who can build the great projects of the future. And we have to train them and give them the opportunity to succeed.

And that means including worker protections in construction bills before Congress. The Republicans have held up these bills before because they don't want these protections in there. Well we're not going to let them fool the American people. They're not trimming the fat. They're cutting Davis-Bacon and we're not going to let them.

As your President has said, "the building trades put the movement in the labor movement." You are moving America forward by protecting workers, by promoting justice, by raising up schools, hospitals, and homes. You build the American Dream with your bare hands.

We've had four years to see who George Bush fights for. And we're here to say to working people: in November, it's going to be your turn. Your turn to have a President who hears your voices. Your turn to have a government on your side. A President fighting for you.

Thank you for standing with me in this fight. I am proud to stand with you. Every day, in this campaign and everyday if I am President, I will fight for the working men and women who are the strength and soul of America.

I know the fight for jobs, the fight for affordable health care, the fight for trade policies that work for America won't be easy. But I've been in tough fights before. For 35 years, I've fought for my country and for people. And I'm ready to lead the battle for our jobs and our economic future.

I say to all of you and all of America: get ready – a new day is on the way.

John F. Kerry, Remarks to the Building Trades Legislative Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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