Alaska's workers, from the fishermen of Southeast to the oil-field workers on the North Slope and the miners, teachers, ferry workers, homebuilders, road builders, public health nurses and everyone else in between, are among the hardest working people in the world. They succeed in the toughest of environments and are the reason Alaska has become a modern state in just 50 years.
Each man and woman deserves a living wage that enables them to raise their families, safe working conditions free from discrimination, and decent pensions to see them through old age. These are things we all want for ourselves and our children.
While many members of the Republican Party do all they can to oppose unions, I take a more moderate view. I give credit to unions for helping to end child labor, insisting on workplace safety, and giving voice to the needs of hard-working men and women. Some union members may not immediately think of a Republican as someone they can turn to for help, but Alaska's union members know that I will always be fair and willing to listen.
For example, while I oppose the Employee Free Choice Act, or EFCA, Alaska's union members know that I oppose harassment, coercion, and unfair play and they respect my reasons for opposing the bill as written. While the goals of EFCA are good-- to ensure that workers can discuss the idea of forming a union free from harassment and coercion, that once a union is chosen, contract negotiations can occur with respect and fairness on both sides--the bill, as written, misses the mark. EFCA would take away Alaskan workers' right to make their choice of forming a union through the privacy of the ballot box, it would punish employers who negotiate in good faith along with those who don't under an unworkable timeline, and it would levy fines on the accused before they are found guilty.
My opposition to EFCA does not mean that I oppose all measures designed to make the workplace a safe, fair place to earn a living. I have consistently supported measures such as Davis-Bacon wages; worksite safety partnerships between OSHA, employers and employees; anti-discrimination legislation such as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act. I have also worked to ensure that measures to preserve Alaska's multi-employer pension plans were included in Senate legislation.
My respect for Alaskan workers is matched by my commitment to seeing that their employers have a fair chance to succeed as well. No worker can get and keep a good job unless Alaskan businesses are strong. That is why I have consistently voted to keep your hard-earned money in the economy where it can create jobs. Instead of finding new ways to spend taxpayer money and place even more burdensome regulations on our small business -- the engine of our economy -- I have worked to create an environment where the entrepreneurial spirit can flourish, to open new markets for U.S. exports, and to allow U.S. companies and workers to compete in the global marketplace.
I have worked hard to ensure that civilian contracts on our military bases go to well-qualified Alaskan businesses, and I've taken the Department of Defense to task when I don't think they're doing their best for Alaskan businesses and workers. I've led the charge against harmful EPA regulations that could raise the cost of doing business, while taking the lead in Congress to find ways to responsibly address the challenge of climate change. I've supported proposals to provide tax incentives for companies that hire unemployed workers, and co-sponsored legislation to create a homebuyer tax credit to strengthen the housing market.
I will continue to fight to open ANWR to responsible oil development and work to ensure that the federal government does its part to get our natural gas to markets in Alaska and the Lower 48. At the same time, I will continue to support efforts to expand development of renewable energy, such as geothermal, tidal, solar and wind projects. And I will continue to support effective job-training opportunities at the University of Alaska, Ilisagvik College and other job training sites like SAVEC in King Salmon, NACTEC in Palmer, and the People's Learning Center in Bethel -- so that those who want work have high-quality training and our Alaskan businesses can hire well-qualified Alaskans.
I will continue to work for a balanced approach to business and labor that will ensure our children will be able to live, work and raise their families in our Great Land.