Clinton Uses AFSCME Speech To Praise Unions, Rip Trump

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

LAS VEGAS (PAI)—Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton brought a hard-hitting speech to 6,000 AFSCME delegates, meeting in convention in Las Vegas, Nev. She alternated in her remarks between praising workers and unions and ripping her GOP foe, businessman Donald Trump.

Clinton’s July 19 speech was greeted with roars from the crowd, whose delegates represent the AFL-CIO’s largest union. Earlier, they unanimously re-elected incumbent President Lee Saunders, who introduced Clinton, for a second term.

 And in turn, Clinton thanked Saunders for making her party’s platform even more progressive than it originally was. Saunders helped shepherd key planks – including one denouncing so-called “free trade” pacts, without naming names – through the platform-drafting process. Democrats will adopt the revised platform at their convention in Philadelphia.

Clinton drew guffaws when she called the GOP convention in Cleveland “surreal” and compared it to the movie The Wizard of Oz. “You draw back the curtain, and there’s Donald Trump!” she said.

But she also warned AFSCME, and other workers, not to let Trump con them with “tough talk.”

By contrast with Trump, AFSCME’s 1.6 million members are “hard-working, middle-class families, people striving for a better life. You represent the American Dream,” she said. And Clinton pledged to fight to restore and expand collective bargaining rights.

But while unions stand up for workers, the Republicans, like the movie, offered “lots of sound and fury, even a fog machine,” Clinton said. “But when you pulled back the curtain it was just Donald Trump, with nothing to offer to the American people.

 “Now, they had about eight hours of speeches yesterday,’ Clinton deadpanned. “They spent most of their time attacking me and President Obama rather than making any kind of argument about the future we want to build for our country. We can do a lot better than that. Because together we’re going to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top.

 “Not just for the rich or the well-connected, but for everyone, and that means working families who get up and do their jobs every day but haven’t seen a real raise in years. It means public employees who serve our communities and deserve to be supported, not scapegoated.

 “You see, I have this old-fashioned idea that our economy should deliver for you the way you deliver for all of us -- and we should stand with you the way you stand with us.

“Because supporting and respecting public employees means supporting and respecting police officers and firefighters and all the men and women who put their lives on the line to keep us safe. And I want to be really clear about this: If you take aim at them, you take aim at all of us.”

 Clinton also highlighted Trump’s hiring of an union-busting firm in his campaigns to prevent unionization at his Las Vegas casino, Trump’s consistent shortchanging of contractors on his hotel construction projects -- driving some of them out of business -- and a consensus among economists that Trump’s policies would plunge the U.S. back into a recession.

The AFSCME delegates agreed, and on July 20 took time out from their convention to join Culinary Workers Local 226’s picket line in front of Trump’s casino. The local won a recognition election against the Trump-owned hotel months ago, but the mogul’s management refuses to bargain for a contract.

Clinton also warned of future attacks on workers via the courts. Citing the Friedrichs case -- where dissident California teachers, tried to throw out state-ordered collection of agency fees to pay for basic union services in public employee shops, she promised that “I will be by your side in this fight every step of the way,” Clinton said. The Supreme Court tied 4-4 on Friedrichs, upholding a pro-worker, pro-union lower court ruling.

 “When I am president, working people will always have a seat at the table and a champion in the White House. Because I believe that when unions are strong, America is strong,” Clinton declared.

 “And we have to send a loud, clear message: ‘Right to work’ is wrong for workers and wrong for America,” she said. The GOP platform, and Trump, back a national so-called “right to work” law which would let any worker in an union-represented shop take advantage of union services – bargaining, grievances, etc. – without paying for them or even being members.

 Clinton didn’t confine her remarks to ripping Trump. She blasted Govs. Scott Walker, R-Wis., and Bruce Rauner, R-Ill., by name for their campaigns to trash public workers, slash wages and cut pensions.  The two have virtually declared war on AFSCME in particular.

Walker, the first of the 17 GOP presidential hopefuls to drop out, ran on an explicit destroy-unions platform. He addressed the GOP convention on July 20, supporting Trump. Aided by a GOP-majority legislature, his anti-union policies have succeeded. Rauner has failed, so far, foiled by a majority-Democratic legislature. But he’s pushed Illinois into an abyss by trying to use the state budget to smash AFSCME there.

Clinton also spent some time on her own platform. Its planks are infrastructure investment,” making college debt-free for all,” putting families first, expanding Social Security, forcing companies to pay their fair share of taxes and cutting out tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas, and equal pay for equal work. “Now you know, Donald Trump can accuse me of playing the ‘woman card’ all he wants. But if fighting for paid family leave and affordable childcare is playing the ‘woman card,’ then deal me in!” she declared.  

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