The president of one of the country’s growing unions is working in Cedar Rapids today alongside a nurse who’s a member of his union, part of an effort to press presidential candidates to address pocketbook issues. Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, spoke with Radio Iowa this morning.
"I still believe in the American dream and when I understand that people here in Iowa are better educated than most of the rest of the nation and actually work much harder than most people everywhere else, yet since 2000 they haven’t gotten a raise in the median income, the Census Bureau says workers aren’t getting a raise," Stern says. "American workers, the middle class, have less health care, less savings, more debt." Stern has written a book entitled "A Country That Works: Getting America Back on Track."
Stern argues there is something wrong with a country that "helps the rich get richer while most Americans get the squeeze." Stern argues it’s time for a "new plan" to address the dramatic changes in the American economy which he says are the most dramatic since the Industrial Revolution. "I wrote the book because I believe the answers to America’s problems are all around us," Stern says. Stern says the Service Employees International Union is growing because it is "much more modern" than traditional unions.
"I think people who go to work every day appreciate the gap between the rich and the rest of us who work is just getting too wide," Stern says. "…People are looking for organizations or unions that provide solutions at the workplace so we’re partnering with our employers. We’re trying to work together to find ways to save money and raise wages and provide prevention and health care." Stern is going to Manchester, New Hampshire on Wednesday to have another "Walk a Day in My Shoes" event with union workers in the state that hosts the first primary of the presidential campaign.
"These candidates come through Iowa and New Hampshire and you know they have glossy events or prepackaged speeches," Stern says. "What we want them to do it to walk a day in an Iowan’s shoes…We want the candidates to understand how difficult it is to live in Iowa and around this country and work every day and how the American dream is getting harder and harder to find." Stern advocates an "overhaul" of the tax system and a "transformation" of the American health care system.
Stern’s union represents the people who work in hospitals and nursing home and those who provide in-home care. It also represents workers who provide security or cleaning services in American businesses, as well as some workers who are employed by government agencies.