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Building Trades Conference

Location: Plymouth, MA

Hello, and thank you for having me.

Let's start from the base principles: unions are good.

Unions are good because they stand up for the folks who ask only for a better way for themselves and a better life for their kids. Unions are good because they understand that economic growth and economic justice must go hand in hand -- a principle I have been working on for most of my life. I support unions because I support the American Dream -- and because I've lived it.

This is also personal for me. I grew up on welfare on the South Side of Chicago. It was my mother's union job at the post office that put us on the track out of poverty, and got us health care for the first time. A union household isn't some abstraction to me -- I come from one.

So let me make it as plain as possible: I respect the right of every worker to organize a union and collectively bargain.

And I have shown you that respect as Governor.

That's why I signed the Card Check bill, and joined my fellow Governors to urge the Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

That's why I advocated for the right of Verizon business technicians to join the CSA and the IBEW, the right of over 10,000 janitors to join the SEIU, and the right of personal care attendants to organize.

That's why I went door to door with you to defeat Question 2.

That's why we created the Underground Economy Joint Task Force, and cracked down on misclassification.

That's why 20% of Recovery Act construction jobs are reserved for registered apprentices.

That's why we've invested in safe workplaces and applied OSHA rules to the public sector.

That's why we push so hard for destination resort casinos, with union jobs at union wages and benefits during construction and operation alike.

And that's why we re-created the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and reorganized the Division of Labor Relations, to put labor's voice back at the table where it belongs.

As a result of all of these measures, since I took office, union membership has climbed 21.5% -- the single largest percentage increase in the nation. At 476,000, the number of employed union members in Massachusetts at its highest level in over a decade.

We are not going to agree on everything. (I can't imagine that people in the business of negotiating could possibly have expected that!) But we have to model the kind of politics that says we don't have to agree on everything before we can work together on anything. I respect you and value your friendship.

But when so many people in this state and nation are deeply anxious about both the present and the future, what's needed isn't just friendship. It's leadership. And make no mistake: I have been working hard for working families.

We are first in the nation in student achievement, first in the nation in health care coverage for our residents, and first in the nation in clean and alternative energy -- because working families need great schools, secure health care, a safe environment and jobs in the innovation economy of tomorrow.

We have ended abuse in the state pension system, tightened the ethics and lobbying rules, simplified the transportation network, shut down the Turnpike Authority, reformed the education bureaucracy, lowered your auto insurance premiums and more -- because working families should not be asked to pay more taxes for the same old thing.

We are fixing our broken roads, rails and bridges, expanding broadband, rebuilding public and affordable housing, college buildings, libraries and hospitals -- because working families need the jobs now and better quality of life all of this brings in the future.

I know this is the worst economy in living memory. I know how it's hammered people's income and savings and home values.

I see you, and your brothers and sisters all across the Commonwealth. I see the bricklayers and boilermakers. The ironworkers and plasterers and the roofers and the teamsters. The painters, caprentrs, electricians and all the other trades.

I see the housekeeping staff at Hyatt Hotels, who trained their replacements, were lied to about it and then were fired. I see those looking for work, in some cases for more than a year, and who are discouraged.

I see the working parents who've had to explain to their children that they couldn't afford to send them back to college this fall.

Those are the real stories of this recession. And that's why, like many of you, I leave the house before my family wakes up and often get home after they're asleep. Because every day I have a chance to help make a better way for someone else, give them a better chance.

The point is, instead of just burying our head in the sand and hoping for better times, or cutting even deeper and putting even more stress on the economy (like other candidates propose to do), we went to work. And priority number one was to create good jobs at fair wages in every single corner of this Commonwealth.

Government can't replace a healthy economy, but it can and should help you weather the storm and put people back to work. So, we decided to invest in both you and our broken infrastructure by making the largest commitment to public works Massachusetts has ever seen.

To put this in context, the last administration spent $1.7 billion on capital projects in their final year. This fiscal year, we will invest $3 billion in capital projects, and next fiscal year we will invest $3.4 billion, doubling our construction commitment despite the worst fiscal crisis the state has ever faced. We did that by providing a capital borrowing plan that's earned the blessing of Wall St.-- another first for the state -- and by leveraging these capital dollars with federal stimulus funds. The result is shovels in the ground and people at work fising our broken infrastructure in every corner of the Commonwealth.

We have already cut the number of structurally deficient bridges by almost 10 percent, doubled the highway reconstruction program, and saved or created over 25,000 jobs.

We leveraged about $180 million of federal stimulus funding for SRF water and sewer construction projects, accelerating $800 million of municipal construction projects this season and creating 4,000 jobs while getting you and your families cleaner drinking water.

We're investing over $100 million next year in our I-Cubed program, MORE jobs program, Growth Districts Initiative -- that's going to mean jobs and construction in Assembly Square in Somerville, in the Hamilton Canal area in Lowell, in downtown Haverhill and along the waterfront in New Bedford.

The Accelerated Bridge Program has already advertised over 73 projects and put your members to work, cutting the overall number of structurally deficient bridges in our Commonwealth by 10%.

Public higher ed across the state is getting a facelift, and we're finally making South Coast commuter rail service a reality, which studies project will generate over $1 billion in spending and spark one of the largest construction booms the South Coast corridor has ever seen.

By the way, based on current projects, approximately 80% of DCAM construction spending is being carried out by union workers.

Take our biggest construction project, the $300 million undertaking at Worcester State Hospital, where I visited today. 96% of the construction spending is being carried out by union workers through companies like Coghlin Electrical, Chapman Waterpoofing, MJ Flaherty, and NB Kenney.

Elsewhere, David Borrus and the Pile Drivers Local 56 at the Carpenters Training Center in Millbury have built a state-of-the-art dive training tank with our help, accrued over $4 million in wages and benefits and over 55,000 hours of work. Those are but two of the hundreds of similar stories being told all across the Commonwealth.

And because I am committed to building on this record and making more of these stories, I have directed that, going forward, Project Labor Agreements be used when necessary. As a start, we're going to use a PLA on the new $150 million science facility and other capital improvements at the UMass Boston campus. We're looking into other projects across the Commonwealth where a PLA is appropriate. Candidates include the Salem State College Library, the Lowell Courthouse project, and the UMass Amherst academic building.

And although we cannot use PLAs for federally-assisted transportation projects until the Federal Highway Administration issues anticipated guidance on PLAs, my team is already exploring the possible use of PLAs for the Charles River bridge capital investment program, including Phase II of the Longfellow Bridge project.

So there is a lot going on in Massachusetts, but we need to keep pressing.

By now you should know that I am going to make the tough call if it's the right one. I'm sure that there have been times that you've disagreed with our administration on issues or policy, or been disappointed with one decision or another. That's fair. Friends can disagree.

But, though it would make my life a lot easier, something I will never do is sell you a bill of goods. I could stand here and promise everything you want and nothing you don't. But in this economy that's just not possible, and I'm not going to insult your intelligence like that.

Here's what I can promise: so long as I have anything to say about it, working families will have a voice at the table and a friend in the Corner Office. Because the occupant of that office today is the product of a union household.

What I focus on is not so much what unions need, but what working people need. I understand that working people also need their roads and bridges fixed. Working people need excellent schools and education for their children. They need sanity when it comes to health insurance premiums, both for their family and their business. Some of the working people I know have family members in long-term disability care who simply can't take more cuts. Others are veterans who depend upon those benefits and assistance. Above all, working people need work.

I came here 40 years ago when I was 14 from a life of poverty on the South Side of Chicago. From that day forward, Massachusetts people and families and businesses and institutions have given me more opportunities to learn and grow and prosper than most kids from the South Side can even imagine. I owe something. Gratitude makes me want to give something back.

And the thing I want to give is a better chance for someone else. A better school. A better job. A better community. A better government. A better future.

When CNBC now ranks Massachusetts as the 8th best state to do business in the nation; when economists predict Massachusetts is recovering faster and stronger from this recession than the rest of the nation; and when for the first time in two decades we're gaining population instead of losing it, I see a brighter tomorrow for every single man, woman and child in this Commonwealth within our grasp.

Work with me, and let's build it together.

Thank you.

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