Governor Tom Vilsack appeared today (Wednesday) at a Washington, D.C. news conference to tout legislation that would make it easier to form unions.
“This is the beginning, I believe, of a debate…about how we enlarge, expand and perhaps create a new social compact between America and its workers…a debate and discussion that’s long overdue,” Vilsack says.
Vilsack, as chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, has been working to build ties between that group and the nation’s labor movement. The Democratic Leadership Council is made up of moderate Democrats who are seen as more business-friendly than the labor movement might like. “It became clear that we needed to do a good job of reaching out to some natural allies on certain issues to try to develop friendships and relationships,” Vilsack says.
Today Vilsack and other Democratic Leadership Council leaders stood with union chiefs to speak in favor of the “Employee Free Choice Act.” Vilsack says the proposal would make it easier to form unions by requiring employers to recognize a union after a majority of workers sign cards authorizing union representation.
Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union, says Vilsack has been a “tireless supporter” of workers’ rights and it was his idea to try to get unions and the moderate Democrats together. “Those of us who’ve been around for some time I’m not sure that we ever thought that we’d see this day with the DLC and the American labor movement…together…backing a single issue and really, hopefully, starting a relationship that will go longer and much deeper,” McEntee says.
The leaders of other labor groups like the AFL/CIO and United Steelworkers appeared at the event, too. Vilsack describes the new alliance with labor as part of a Democratic Leadership Council bid to reshape the nation’s political debate. “Labor (and the) Democratic Party has always talked about working families. My humble suggestion is we start talking about worried families because there is a great deal of anxiety in America today,” Vilsack says. The governor, who leaves office in mid-January and is pondering a bid for the White House in 2008, says Americans are worried about the rising cost of health care, the rising cost of a college education and whether pensions and Social Security will be there when they retire.