Text of speech to National Alliance of HUD Tenants
2003 Annual Conference, June 21-23
by Carolyn Federoff, President
AFGE Council 222
We all know that we are living in dangerous times. Every person in this room faces a threat—a threat from the Bush Administration and this Congress. Some threats are subtle and others are blatant. They use various tactics to succeed—delay, confuse, manipulate and divide.
Two weeks ago, the Senate was considering a judicial nominee of the Bush Administration. Judge Pryor opposes laws that guarantee building access to persons with disabilities. The hearing room was packed with opponents in wheel chairs, and supporters holding Bibles—because Pryor also apposes abortion rights and supports anti-gay laws. I’ll bet not one of those Bible-toting supporters also opposes building access for persons with disabilities. But the Bush Administration manipulates people’s raw emotions and divides people who would be common allies.
Let’s look at the CTAG and ITAG grants. The grants provide tenants with the means to come together, assess the issues facing you, determine a plan of action and pursue an agenda for affordable housing and quality neighborhoods.
I have no inside knowledge of the fate of the CTAG and ITAG grants. But their delay fits the pattern of this Administration and Congress. For this Administration and Congress, it is dangerous when working class people come together.
This Administration and Congress have waged a frontal assault on public employee unions and civil service protections. They have shamelessly used the September 11 attacks as a way to strip union and civil service rights from federal employees. They started with Border Patrol and Customs. They’re now proposing the same for the Department of Defense. But it’s not about homeland security. Representative Tom Wolfe (R-VA) has said that after they are through with the Department of Defense, they’re going to “modernize” the rest of the federal government. “Modernize” means union free.
Because unions get in their way. Like your tenants’ union, workers’ unions provide a means for us to come together, assess the issues, determine a plan of action, and pursue an agenda.
Although only 13% of American workers belong to a union, 26% of all voters are union members.
This process—coming together, assessing the issues, making a plan and taking action—works. It cuts through the confusion, helps us think through the manipulation, and unites us where they would divide us.
The American labor movement delivers voters for affordable housing; we’re there for quality healthcare; we stand for good jobs; we fight for education. We think the American dream is for everyone, not just the privileged few.
If common people—tenants and workers—are to survive these threats, we need to recognize the tactics of delay, confuse, manipulate and divide.
We need to counter by coming together, assessing the issues, planning and taking action.
But above all, we need to be united.
Divided we beg.
United we win!