Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at the California State AFL-CIO Convention in Los Angeles, California

September 22, 1980

Leaders of the organizations of working people for California, my good friend Jack Henning:

That's one of the best introductions that I have ever heard—beautiful. I, too, am familiar with being quoted out of context by the same crowd. And these are the same people, as you know, who said there are two ways to deal with facts: You can look them up, or you can make them up. Well, now they've found a third way: You can botch them up. And they've really botched this one up. Thank you, Jack. But I don't think you ought to feel too badly about it, particularly since you give a good explanation as you just did. You're the only leader in America, because they've used you in the advertisements, to collect residuals from the Republican National Committee. And if they pay you for using your name, I hope you'll let me know when you collect, because you'll be the first person and this will be the first time that the Republicans have ever done anything in meeting an obligation to the working people of this country. You'll be the first.

I'm grateful that you've let me drop by to interrupt your important proceedings, because it means an awful lot to me to be with you. This is an important State in determining the outcome of this election. I do not intend to lose California. If you'll help me on November the 4th, we'll win.

I've only got a few minutes, so I'll be brief. But there are a few things that I wanted to say because, although you may have heard them from other people, I want you to hear them from me as the President of the United States, as a nominee of the Democratic Party, and as the one that you've endorsed for reelection.

Six weeks from now, the American people will make a very profound choice-a choice not just between two men or two parties but between two futures. And what you decide on that day, you and those who listen to your voice, will determine what kind of life you and your families will have, whether this Nation will make progress or go backward, and whether we have peace or war. It'll be a choice between two very different futures.

We've had five decades, since Franklin Roosevelt's time, of steady progress, interrupted on a few occasions by Republican administrations in the White House. We need to continue what the Democratic Party means for this country and what the labor movement of America has meant to the strength of this Nation, not only to your own members, whether this Nation will stand firmly by its commitments to justice, to equality, and to freedom. In keeping these commitments for the last 3 1/2 years, we've faced some of the most difficult problems that this Nation has seen. We have stayed at peace through strength. We've faced up to the first time I ever remember when an outside force could exert economic pressure on our great country.

The energy problem is profound. We've taken action, and now oil imports are down 24 percent. We've got over 3,100 oil drilling rigs running right now. We'll have more oil and natural gas wells drilled in 1980 than any other year in the history of our country. We're producing more coal this year than any other year in the history of our country. We've got 10 times as many homes using solar power today as we did just 4 years ago.

This steady progress, which comes in recent months, can profoundly affect the quality of your life, because in the 1970's, in the late years, we have been successful in meeting this challenge on energy, which is crucial, and now we're ready to rebuild the industrial complex of this country.

As you know, the American worker is the most productive worker on Earth. But the American worker has too long been saddled with obsolescent tools and obsolescent factories, and we've got to have the investment going to give you the tools and the factories and the opportunities to continue to be the most productive workers on Earth in the years ahead. We will revitalize America, look to the future with confidence and with commitment and with unity and with courage in the process, above and beyond normal economic recovery and above and beyond the programs that are now in the halls of Congress. We'll add a million new jobs in the next 2 years, jobs in growing and competitive industry.

It's crucial to me, as President and as Commander in Chief, to keep our Nation's defense structure strong. For the 8 years before I became President, 7 of those years we had a decrease in the commitment of American budget funds for defense. Since I've been in office, every year we've had an increase in commitment in real dollars, above and beyond inflation to American defense. And as long as I'm in the White House, this country will be strong, second to none in military power. And you can depend on it. And that's the reason we stay at peace—because we are strong. American people know we're strong; our allies know we're strong; our potential adversaries know that we are strong. We're developing advanced weapons, but I think it's good for us to remember that the best weapon is the one that's never fired in combat, and the best soldier is one that never sheds blood on the battlefield. And that can only come about if our determination to keep America strong never waivers.

It's important for us to strengthen our basic industries—steel, automobiles, mining, transportation—also to encourage high technology industries, to expand research and development, to rebuild our transportation system, and to expand exports. And we'll give direct aid to communities and workers that are hit by changing times. Because change is inevitable, we cannot stop and freeze the societal structure of our country. But as those changes take place, it's important to me, and my responsibility along with yours, to make sure that families don't suffer and, as a factory or plant is phased out because of changing circumstances, that we have jobs come into that community to tide those families over for new and productive careers.

The American economy must and will be a full-employment economy, and the American worker will continue to outwork, outproduce, and outcompete workers in every other nation on Earth. That's my commitment to you. That is not enough. I listened very closely to Jack Henning when he pointed out what Reagan had done here in depriving labor of an adequate voice in matters that are crucial to you and to your families. We need a new consensus that recognizes that labor ought to be represented at the major decision tables when the future of our Nation is shaped. We are in danger of having some of those important considerations decided against labor unless we've got a President in the White House who can stand in partnership with you. I'm still with you on common situs, and I will veto any attempt to repeal or to modify Davis-Bacon against the interests of the working people of this country.

And I might add one other thing. I don't get in political campaigns to lose. Sometimes there is a delay in victory. But I'm still committed to you, and I will support, for your interests and for our national interests, labor law reform. And I believe we'll have it in the years ahead.

There's another point I want to make very quickly, and that is that when we rebuild our economy and as we give labor a firm voice in shaping the future of America, we must also expand social and economic justice in America. We must sustain programs for the poor and the unemployed and the elderly and the afflicted and the weak. We need to enact national health insurance. And we need to enact welfare reform and expand youth employment. These kinds of things give us an unfinished work agenda that will be very challenging and also very exciting in the years ahead.

In these last 3 1/2 years we've laid a good foundation for a future of an expanding economy, a just society, and a secure nation at peace. In contrast to that, we face a Republican candidate and a Republican Party that offer this country a counterfeit future. The Republicans promise the same Republican formulas that long ago failed the majority of Americans, and the majority of Americans, when reminded, remember.

We've heard the Republicans praise the newborn free trade unions of Poland. Don't you wish they were as enthusiastic about free trade unions in America? They oppose the minimum wage. They support the so-called right-to-work laws. They support including unions in antitrust laws. They opposed and still oppose Humphrey-Hawkins. They support repeal of Davis-Bacon. They oppose labor law reform. They were against Medicaid and Medicare. They call for making social security voluntary. We've heard that unemployment compensation is, and I quote, "little more than a paid vacation for freeloaders." Yet after all that, they now campaign under the guise of being a friend of the working people.

To solve our energy problem, they have a very simple answer: Just turn it over to the oil companies; they'll take care of our needs. "Trust them," they say, "to conserve our scarce oil resources and develop alternative energy sources. Let's do away with the windfall profits tax. Let the oil companies keep that money and make a decision on how it should be spent." They deny the need for energy conservation, and they deny any notion that oil is a scarce resource and ought to be conserved. They fought against and still fight against the windfall profits tax.

They have another very simple answer to all our economic problems—a massive tax cut that would be a windfall for the rich and would rob the working man and woman with rapidly increasing inflation in the future. Only one-tenth of that tax cut would go for job-producing investments. The rest of it would set off an inflationary whirlwind.

There's nothing in these simple answers for rebuilding our ports, our railroads, for research and development, for retraining workers, for aid to cities or communities hit by economic change. That's the kind of future that the Republicans hold out. And that's the reason you and I in this next 6 weeks must work with determination and fervor in a sacrificial way with the majority of American workers who share our commitment.

We need to work together, to turn out the Democratic voters in California, the working people, who've been the backbone of social and economic progress. Let's rededicate ourselves to this task and join the struggle for justice and human dignity. Let's join together in sweeping California on November the 4th and making this great country of ours even greater in the future. You do your share. I'll do my share. We'll have a great victory in November.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 4:13 p.m. in the Neill Petrie Hall at the Los Angeles Convention Center. He was introduced by Jack Henning, executive secretary/treasurer of the California State AFL-CIO.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at the California State AFL-CIO Convention in Los Angeles, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251555

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