FILE PHOTO Jim Hightower thousands more jobs out of our country and into Mexico, exploiting labor down there 63 cents an hour is a poverty wage in Mexico, not just in this country -but they’re going to take our best jobs, our highest-paying jobs, they’re going to take your jobs, down there. It’s General Motors that’s moving down there, and General Electric. It’s AT&T, American Express, the banks. It’s the high-tech, highskill jobs that are going to Mexico. It’s the 18-, 20-, 25-dollar-an-hour jobs that are going down there … They can hire a college-educated engineer in Mexico for 80 bucks a week, the equivalent of a college-educated engineer in this country. That’s why we have got to fight this program. There’s an old Texas saying that when you find you’ve dug yourself into a hole, the first thing to do is quit digging. That’s what NAFTA is, a great big shovel digging us deeper into that hole. Sixtythree-cent-an-hour labor has nothing to do with global competitiveness and it has everything to do with global greed. Lily Tomlin says: “Even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.” [Applause.] But I’m going to talk about some of my fellow Democrats. Too many of our Democratic leaders seem to have lost the concept of being a Democrat. They get confused on the concept.” [Hightower told a story about a doctor who recommended that a man who was complaining about his poor sexual performance try jogging. The guy was supposed to run eight miles a day for 10 days. When the patient called back, he said he was jogging and felt great. The doctor asked him how his sex life was doing. The man replied, “Sex life? Doc, I’m 80 miles from home.”] Too many of our Democrats are 80 miles from home. Some of them are 80 light years from home [applause] and we’ve got to bring them back. That old labor song, “Which Side Are You On?” That’s the question we’ve got to ask. Bill Clinton is twisting arms to get NAFTA on behalf of Wall Street, but on labor’s striker replacement bill, Clinton says, “Well, if you all pass it, then I’ll sign it.” Hey, thanks a lot. Which side are you on? His proposal to tax oil companies and utilities became a consumer tax on our gasoline and utility bills. Even a lightweight like Senator Bob Dole, who’s got a four-pound tongue in a five-pound head, scared Clinton off of his promise to give America a job-stimulus bill. Clinton backed down. Which side are you on? Clinton didn’t even propose the minimum wage increase that he promised during the election because the bond dealers on Wall Street squawked about it, so he backed away. John Mellencamp sings, “You’ve got to stand for something or you’re going to fall for anything.” That’s our President. Clinton has fallen for the conservative crap that he’s got to sell out his own constituency and serve Wall Street in order to get re-elected. They call themselves a new kind of Democrat. I call them Republicans. [Applause.] Even a dog knows the difference between being stumbled over and being kicked. We’re being kicked. IT HAPPENS RIGHT HERE IN TEXAS too, doesn’t it? What was that last session all about? Aren’t we Democrats in charge down there? It was about serving corporations and kicking labor, kicking consumers, kicking poor people, kicking anyone who’s in the way of corporate interests in this state. Where are Democratic leaders in the tradition of Ralph Yarborough? The unapologetic, unreconstructed, unabashed, little-people’s Democrat. That’s what we need. But our leaders are presiding over a state that ranks right at the bottom in health-care coverage for workers, in average earnings for workers, in tax fairness. Right at the bottom in prenatal care, in the number of doctors per capita, in Medicare benefits, AFDC benefits. Dead last in benefits for poor people. Dead last in funding for mental health and retardation. But we do rank at the top in some categories. Yeah, we’re seventh in unemployment, fourth in teenage unemployment, fifth in the gap between the rich and the poor, we have the fourth-worst literacy rate in the country. We have the second-highest crime rate, we’re second in the number of job-related injuries. We’re number one in hazardous waste production, number one in job-related deaths. How did this happen? This is what we ought to be working on. No wonder people aren’t voting. They’re looking for some leadership on what really matters to them. What’s on the bottom needs to be on the top and what’s on the top needs to be on the bottom. That’s what people are looking for. That’s where the AFL-CIO comes in. Build that movement in this state. Build us a real Democratic Party. Build us a political organization we can be proud of. Labor did this in the 1950s and 1960s. You organized precinct by precinct. You helped create the Texas Observer. You created the Texas Democrats, because the Democratic Party was running away from its principles. You re-elected Ralph Yarborough three times. You led rump delegations out of the state conventions because they weren’t standing up for workers in Texas. You made a difference in this state then. Do it again. If you don’t do it, nobody else is going to do it. But if you do it, others will join you. And we will redefine what it is to be a Democrat, so we can elect people to office who know which side they’re on. Some of you will say, “Well, they’ve got the big bucks. How are we going to fight that?” Sure they’ve got the fat cats, but we’ve got the alley cats. That’s you…. Don’t just pool that money up and give it out to anybody that comes along. Ask them which side they’re on before you give them the money. Don’t give them a dime and don’t volunteer to put up a sign until they sign onto your program. [Applause.] You have the power to make the difference in this state. I beg you to take charge and make a difference in Texas. We count on you. You have the organizational ability. You’re everywhere in this state. People say, “Labor’s so weak.” Labor’s not weak at all. You’re in every community. You’ve got a membership that pays dues every single month. You have a moral authority and a history that other people will follow. I’m asking you to put together an agenda that people like me can follow and work with you on. We’ve got to have some organizational leadership. It’s not going to come out of the ground. Some organizational force has to step forward. This is your role. It has been in the past. And it must be today if we’re going to change things and make any difference. I’ll leave you with this thought. It’s what the old-time populists said about a hundred years ago exactly. A women named Mary Ellen Lease, who couldn’t even vote, campaigned all over the Midwest fighting the railroad monopolies that were abusing the corn farmers up in Nebraska and Kansas. She took to the political stump and told them, “It’s time to raise less corn and more hell!” Let’s go do that in Texas! THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7 ..1
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