Republished: October 19,2012
Originally published: October 14, 2012
By James C. Little – International President, Transport Workers Union
Did you catch the exchanges in the first and second presidential debates where President Obama and Governor Romney discussed their plans for improving our nation’s airports, roads, rails and bridges, mass transit and commercial airlines?
Don’t feel bad if you missed it – because it never happened. In the debates, there’s been hardly a word about the critical industries where TWU members go to work every day.
That’s unfortunate because hundreds of millions of Americans — and millions of large and small businesses – rely every day on safe and secure transportation.
President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney have very different views on how to move our nation forward. President Obama is in favor of substantial investment and modernization of America’s transportation infrastructure, while Governor Romney believes tax cuts for the wealthy and sharp cuts in government spending are the best way to revive our economy.
In addition, the president has taken steps to protect and expand workplace rights for transportation workers. Governor Romney, on the other hand, is in favor of new limits on the right to organize and bargain.
A few key examples:
Amtrak: Gov. Romney advocates eliminating all federal funding for Amtrak – about $1.4 billion a year. President Obama, by contrast, increased funding for Amtrak and state rail programs by $1.5 billion, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Transportation infrastructure: Gov. Romney’s has endorsed the budget proposal of his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI.) It cuts spending on transportation infrastructure by 28%, from $307 per person to $220 per person by 2022. The result would be a loss of 500,000 transportation jobs – including the jobs of many TWU members – in the first year of a Romney/Ryan administration.
Workplace rights: President Obama has taken a number of steps to assist workers in the transportation sector, including:
•Granting bargaining rights for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners
•Restoring bargaining rights for FAA workers
•Supporting modernization of the Railway Labor Act to allow workers to win organizing elections with a simple majority of votes.
•Including transit labor protections, under Section 13 (c) of the Federal Transit Act, in all federal transportation investments.
Gov. Romney, on the other hand, favors new restrictions on the right to organize and bargain. He supported Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s bill to eliminate bargaining for public sector workers in Ohio, which was overturned by voters. Romney has promised to the repeal of the federal Davis-Bacon law and project labor agreements, which guarantee fair wages and safe working conditions on federally funded construction projects.
The Governor also has embraced the Republican Party’s platform that calls for national Right-to-Work (for less money and benefits) legislation.
During his time in the private sector, Gov. Romney was a director and shareholder of Key Airlines. The company, controlled by Bain Capital, engaged in an anti-union campaign against pilots who were trying to organize over safety issues. A federal judge described the company’s activities as “blatant, grievous, willful deliberate and repeated violations of the Railway Labor Act.”
Transportation and labor issues are vital to TWU members, but we also need to look at the broader issues that affect all of us as citizens and workers.
In discussing this year’s election, I’ve heard from many of our members – especially young people – who had high hopes in 2008 but are disappointed with the current political and economic stalemate.
We’d all like to see more improvement in the economy, and Gov. Romney and his supporters insist that President Obama has not made enough progress in creating jobs. But after reading through the information presented by the GOP, their only agenda on the economic front seems to be tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans (which will cost $700 billion dollars) and spending cuts (which will cost the jobs of TWU members.)
How, exactly, will giving an average $100,000-per-year tax break to people making a million dollars a year help to rebuild the middle-class, promote growth, or add jobs to our economy?
President Obama, by contrast, has put forth a comprehensive agenda that includes new investment in transportation, green energy initiatives, and education. He favors laws to protect workers and regulation of the financial industry to prevent a return to the financial crisis which nearly wrecked the global economy.
After reviewing all the facts, the TWU International Executive Board has joined our brothers and sisters in the AFL-CIO to endorse President Obama for re-election. I am very comfortable with this decision and the president will have my support on November 6.
In the TWU, of course, our members speak for themselves. Your decision in the voting booth is yours and yours alone. I encourage all of our members to get beyond the political spin, do your own research, and make a decision about what is most important to you and your family. I certainly hope all of you have an opportunity to vote on November 6, because the results of this election will affect all of us for the next four years and beyond.
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