by Kate Childs Graham | February 12, 2013
Just a few short weeks ago, we heard Pres. Barack Obama set out a vision for this country in his second Inaugural Address. He reminded us that “preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.” He lifted up our shared belief in protecting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. And he touted equality and economic opportunity for all – gay or straight, immigrant or not. President Obama’s inaugural words echoed AFSCME’s own priorities and values.
As the President gives his State of the Union address tonight, we will again hear these priorities, these values.
Members from across the country are gathered in Washington, DC, and will watch the President’s address as part of AFSCME’s 2013 Legislative Conference. Check back here – or our Facebook page and Twitter feed – for live reactions from AFSCME members.
Also, play AFSCME’s State of the Union bingo in the comfort of your own home. Check off the words we think he’ll say as you hear them. Get five in a row, and you win!
UPDATE: 8:30 p.m. ET – AFSCME members are starting to gather for the President’s address. Barbara Pardo, 61, president of AFSCME Retiree Chapter 18 in New Mexico is full of “anticipation, or more like hope.”
“I’d like the President to address the disparity in taxation. The middle class is paying more than the top two percent, and it’s not fair that we shoulder that burden,” Pardo said.
She continued, “He should stand his ground on Medicare and Social Security. Those social safety networks have made us the country we are.”
UPDATE: 9:25 p.m. ET – President Obama began with a challenge, “It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth – a rising, thriving middle class.”
Grace Baltich, president of AFSCME Council 65 in Minnesota, said, “This gives me hope for the future. It gives me hope that my family and my daughter and her family will be able to have a decent lifestyle. It gives me hope that our members will be make ends meet every day.”
UPDATE: 9:35 p.m. ET – When President Obama said, "A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs – that must be the North Star that guides our efforts," AFSCME members stood to applaud.
UPDATE: 9:48 p.m. ET – President Obama said, “After all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks? How is that fair? How does that promote growth?”
“It’s not an investment in our future to cut education. Education made our country great,” Jason Stinnett of AFSCME DC 36 in California responded.
Stinnett went on, “Medicare affects our most vulnerable population – seniors on fixed incomes. How does cutting Medicare help society? The truth is it doesn’t. It’s not fair to give the wealthy tax breaks.”
UPDATE: 9:55 p.m. ET – President Obama said, “That is why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.”
“There are very few jobs that allow people access to the middle class. The chance to get a decent job is gone. The rungs have been pulled up. And it is hard for people to get into the middle class,” said Salvatore Luciano, International Vice President and Executive Director of AFSCME Council 4 in Connecticut.
“The solution is to invest in our young people,” Luciano added.
UPDATE: 10:10 p.m. ET – When President Obama mentioned Newtown, Conn. and Hurricane Sandy, the crowd of AFSCME members grew silent. Two AFSCME members who are Newtown police officers are guests of the White House at the speech tonight.
UPDATE: 10:20 p.m. ET – In a statement following the President’s address, AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders said, “AFSCME stands ready to fight for what President Obama laid out tonight, to fight to rebuild and expand the middle class, and to fight for the right for all Americans to achieve the American Dream.
Previous: President Saunders: No Time for Fair-Weather Friends