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Remarks at the Building Trades Legislative Conference

Location: Unknown

Thank you Ed Sullivan for having me here today and for all you've done for the labor movement.  It's been almost 40 years since Ed joined his union in a small town called Boston.  He's a hometown guy and he's an elevator construction guy who has gone all the way to the top.

You and I have many things in common.  We love our country.  We know it needs a new direction.  And we believe that our rights as Americans include the right to organize.

But you and I have something else in common too.  The Republican leadership has attacked our freedom to speak and even our very patriotism.

Recently Tom Delay tried to make a political issue of my call for new leadership.  Well, I refuse to have my patriotism questioned by him or anyone else. I fought for and bled for and earned the right to express my views in this country.  If they want to pick a fight, they've picked a fight with the wrong guy.

And they clearly picked the wrong fight when they questioned your patriotism and valor.  Three months ago, Tom Delay said organized labor 'exploited World War II.'  And he said that now you're a quote 'clear and present danger to the security of the United States at home and the safety of our Armed Forces oversees.'

How dare those who have made their careers tearing people down attack those who do the work of building America up.
You are the red, white and blue collar men and women who have made America what it is today.

Union members have fought in every war for the past hundred years.  And this war is no different.  Thousands of union members are fighting on the front lines and two members of the building trades have fallen.

Let's remember Lance Corporal Eric Orlowski and Sgt. Bradley Korthaus.  Eric was twenty-six years old.  He was a single parent, raising a young daughter.  Bradley was engaged to be married as soon as he got back.  They were Marines.  They were patriots.  And they were something more as well.  Eric was a member of Painters Local 660 and Bradley was a member of UA Local 25. 

We honor their bravery. Now let's honor their memory by building the kind of America all our soldiers deserve to come home to; the kind of America they deserve.

Because as we know, the real strength of our nation does not come out of the muzzle of a gun, the belly of a B-52, the accuracy of a cruise missile, awesome as they may be. The real strength of our country comes from the hopes we nurture and future we shape.

And America looks to you to do what you've done for a century to build that future, to build a future we can be proud of.
That means addressing America's infrastructure deficit -- new schools, new hospitals, new roads and bridges for the 21st century.

That means doing much more to turn swords into plowshares and helmets into hardhats.

That means protecting the prevailing wage.  It means strengthening not weakening the right to organize.  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.

The Republican leadership has a different idea.  They're trying to lower the prevailing wage, eliminate overtime pay for millions and get rid of the 40 hour work week. 

And now they're holding up construction bills in Congress because they don't want to include worker protections.  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.

Together, let's build an America that is safer, stronger, and more secure.  I will work with you side by side everyday until the job is done. Let's make it happen.

Thank you.

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