January 11, 2017
In his farewell address to the nation Tuesday night, President Barack Obama wove through his speech the idea that working families are the core of what makes America special. Obama showed not just his fundamental decency, but a deep understanding of the real challenges American workers face – and what we need to do to overcome those struggles.
“But the next wave of economic dislocation won’t come from overseas. It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes many good, middle-class jobs obsolete.
And so we must forge a new social compact – to guarantee all our kids the education they need; to give workers the power to unionize for better wages; to update the social safety net to reflect the way we live now and make more reforms to the tax code so corporations and individuals who reap the most from the new economy don’t avoid their obligations to the country that’s made their success possible.”
President Obama understands union membership is key to the growth of the middle class. As union membership drops, so do the living standards of all but the wealthiest Americans. We stand together or fall together.
Perhaps most importantly, Obama understands the key roles that the labor movement and the fight for workers’ rights have played in American history. He placed that battle in the proper context in his speech Tuesday:
“For 240 years, our nation’s call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation. It’s what led patriots to choose republic over tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that makeshift railroad to freedom. It’s what pulled immigrants and refugees across oceans and the Rio Grande, pushed women to reach for the ballot, powered workers to organize. It’s why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima; Iraq and Afghanistan – and why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs as well.”
For eight years we’ve had a president who gets it, who understands what unions have meant to this country. In just a handful of days, he’ll hand over power to a man who has promised to stand up for the middle class, but whose record is – to say the least – very troubling. We don’t know what to expect from President Donald Trump, but we know we’ll miss President Obama.
You can watch the entire speech and read the transcript here.
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