John F. Kerry photo

Remarks to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Annual Unity Conference in Las Vegas

May 16, 2004

Thank you. I've seen proud Teamsters at every one of my events. You're helping to change the course of this country. Together we're going to end the Bush Presidency – and if you continue to work as hard as you are to make that happen, I will work every day for your jobs – your families – your healthcare – your rights – and we'll put Jobs First in America again.

It's great to be here in Las Vegas. This place is the complete opposite of Washington. In Vegas people gamble with their own money.

Many of you have served in the Armed Forces, and many are now in the Guard and reserves doing their duty today. Not a moment or day goes by that we don't think about our troops. They're our sons and daughters – our neighbors and they are in harm's way to serve the nation and principles we love. Today and everyday we say God bless them and we thank them for their courage. We thank them for their service. We support them beyond words.

I also want to congratulate all of you. Not only do you do the work that builds America – You're doing the hard work of knocking on doors – walking house to house – talking to neighbors and fellow workers. You're building a stronger America by helping working people get ahead in our economy.

And that's the most important work in America today.

All around us people are struggling.

Today, in America, there is a couple in Erie, Pennsylvania wondering how they'll pay $150,000 in medical bills. The husband survived a heart attack and triple bypass surgery only to find out that he lost every dime of health insurance because his employer couldn't afford it anymore. We need to keep working for him.

Today, in America, there is a woman in Dayton, Ohio wondering what she did to deserve her pink slip. She walked into work one day and found out that they were outsourcing her job to China, unbolting the equipment and sending that overseas too. We need to keep working for her.

Today, in America, right in Reno, there are 280 of your Teamster brothers and sisters who are risking their jobs to fight for affordable health care and an extra 90 cents an hour. Truck drivers wondering why they get up and work hard every day and still can't pay the bills. We need to keep working, keep fighting, and keep standing strong with them.

For almost four years, they've been asking this White House, "What are you going to do about this? What's your plan to solve the problems facing our daily lives?" And for four years, they've basically told us: "You're on your own."

They don't have a plan. I do.

This Administration has stubbornly refused to admit a single mistake and stubbornly turned away the chances they've had to fix them. Now, they're running on the promise that they'll keep doing more of the same.

This is like the Red Sox saying, "Let's see if we can go another 86 years without a World Series."

Their way hasn't made America stronger. My way will.

We know we can do better and think bigger about the challenges we face.

We know that a strong economy is a growing middle-class where every American has a chance to work and an opportunity to succeed.

And Teamsters know better than anyone that America is at its best when Americans are at work.

So let me tell you what I'm going to do:

I'm going to put America back to work with a plan to create good paying jobs. My strategy is built on a simple principle: We should reward work, make sure Americans have a chance to work, and get ahead when they do.

We can cut taxes for businesses that do right by America and reward companies for creating jobs here instead of for moving jobs overseas. If a company is torn between creating jobs here or overseas, we now have a tax code that tells you to go overseas. That's wrong. And if I am President, it will end.

This is just basic common sense. And we need to apply the same kind of fairness when it comes to enforcing our trade agreements.

We need to trade. We always have. When we engage with the world on a level playing field, no country prospers more than ours.

But we'll never get ahead if other countries aren't living up to their part of the bargain. This Administration hasn't enforced our trade deals – I will. I will because I know that when other countries walk all over our agreements our companies and our workers can't compete. It's not right that we have a $500 billion trade deficit. I'm going to fight to give the American worker a level playing field, because when we do there's not a country in the world the American worker can't compete with and win.

This is not a philosophical question about free trade or protectionism; it is just a common sense question – why aren't we enforcing our own laws on behalf of our own workers and businesses.

When I am president, we will never turn a blind eye to clear trade violations when American jobs are on the line.

When we enter an agreement, those countries will know that they must live up to their part of the bargain.

We will fight to make sure all new trade agreements will include enforceable labor and environmental provisions in the core of the agreement. And we will renegotiate CAFTA to make sure they're included there too.

And we will make American businesses more competitive by reducing one of their biggest costs: health care.

Over the last three years, premiums have soared by $2,700. It's costing families their life savings and it's costing businesses new jobs. My plan would cut costs, cut waste, cut greed, and cut health care premiums by up to $1,000 for a family.

But we need to do even more for middle-class Americans who are working harder, earning less, and paying more for health care and college and taxes. That's why under my plan, 98% of Americans and 99% of American businesses will get a tax cut.

Let me be clear: when I'm President, your taxes will go down so your incomes will go up.

Finally, the only way we will create new jobs that will create new opportunities is to invest in them. Manufacturing jobs that will, once again, be the backbone of the American economy.

Today, businesses are harnessing new technology to manufacture energy-efficient cars, high-grade steel, advanced plastics and other new products. And they require a bigger, higher-skilled labor force to fill those jobs. To make sure those are American workers in American businesses, we need to make sure we're providing the job training and the start-up capital to make it happen. And when I'm President, we will.

Back when your union began, it was horse-drawn wagons that connected people who traded with the products they needed. Those first Teamsters knew something that has kept this Brotherhood strong for years: that we are stronger when we work together.

Today, America is still being built by everyday men and women who work hard and do what's right. They raise their kids, help their neighbors, and love their country. They don't ask for special favors – all they want is a chance to get ahead.

They deserve a President who will offer action not just words.

They deserve a President whose actions will reflect the truth that all those firefighters, police officers, rescue workers who ran up those stairs at the World Trade Center on September 11th so others could live – every one of them was a member of organized labor – and they believed in the right to strike, the right to bargain, and the right to organize.

Teamsters – They all believed that we are stronger when we work together. When we protect the right to organize for our workers. When we fight for fair wages, affordable health care, and the chance for a better education. When we create good jobs for every American who wants one. And when we spread opportunity to every American who hopes for it.

This is the America I want to lead. This is the America I know we can have. And this is the America I ask you to join me in building. Let's get it done. Thank you.

John F. Kerry, Remarks to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Annual Unity Conference in Las Vegas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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