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Public Statements

Expressing Respect for the Dignity of All Work and All Workers

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

* Mr. INSLEE. Mr. Speaker, in the 1930s, as Americans slowly walked the road to recovery and rebuilt a country ravaged by the Great Depression, workers sought security and stability and unified representation. The National Labor Relations Act outlined the rights of both workers and employers and put forward rules to bring fairness to the union election process. Project labor agreements were established, and the Davis-Bacon Act created prevailing wage requirements. All this in a country still living in the shadow of the largest economic collapse the world had ever known. Our economy rebounded, and the middle class flourished. American manufacturing set the global standard, and much of the work was done by workers who enjoyed the right to collectively bargain with their employer. Our country respected the dignity of all work, and all workers.

* Now, in the wake of the worst recession of our lifetime, some leaders appear to be trying to pull the rug from underneath working families who are already on the floor. We have witnessed attacks on collective bargaining rights in the state legislatures of Wisconsin and Ohio, and the repeated attempts of Congress to erode workers' rights. From repealing Davis-Bacon wage requirements to ending the power of regulators to enforce existing labor law, the same workers who made this the wealthiest country on the planet are now at times disparaged and denigrated by some rather than being protected and praised. Workers exercising their right to bargain collectively did not bring us to the brink of another Great Depression. Project labor agreements didn't cause our housing market to collapse. Prevailing wage requirements aren't causing our community banks to fail.

* Rather, the protection of workers' rights, such as collective bargaining, has helped to create a strong American middle class, which has in turn spurred the growth of the U.S. economy. Collective bargaining is just that, bargaining. Protecting the rights of employees does not mean handicapping employers, it means respecting the dignity of all work, and all workers. As our country continues to walk the road to recovery, we should be mindful of this example, and we should respect the dignity of the workers who will take us there.

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