WASHINGTON – Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees trade union, said his members are energized heading into Election Day, and ready to defeat Republican governors seeking to take away collective bargaining.
“Knock on those doors. Make those phone calls. Convince folks that it’s important to have your voices heard on November 4th. It’s important to vote because we understand those challenges. We understand folks are trying to take away retirement security for millions of Americans,” Saunders said in a speech at the Campaign for America’s Future Awards gala on Tuesday evening.
“We understand that governors across this country are trying to steal our voices and take collective bargaining away from public service workers. I’ve got to tell you, our members are energized and they’re fighting back,” he added.
AFSCME represents 1.6 million members. According to UnionFacts.com, Saunders earned a salary of $350,058 in 2013.
“We’ve got a number of governor races where I’m going to be visiting those states, and we’ve got to send a strong message. Whether it’s Scott Walker in Wisconsin, we’re going to kick his ass on November 4,” Saunders said. “Whether it’s Scott Walker, whether it’s Rick Scott, whether it’s [Rick] Snyder. We’ve got a whole bunch of them.”
Walker, the current Republican governor of Wisconsin, is locked in a tight race with Democrat Mary Burke.
Saunders, who received the America’s Future Progressive Champion award at the event, called on the audience to rededicate themselves to the progressive movement.
“We’ve got to hold on to the Senate. We’ve got to motivate our folks to understand the importance of that election,” Saunders said.
The Campaign for America’s Future also recognized New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio with the America’s Future Progressive Champion award.
“Campaign for America’s Future and I share some major concerns, including combating the nation’s growing income inequality. It is truly the crisis of our time,” he said. “Too many hardworking families are struggling, with the buying power of minimum wage less than it was in 1964. And a single parent working full-time at federal minimum wage makes just $14,500—which is $1,230 below the poverty line.”
De Blasio said New York City is leading by example.
“Just last month, more than 50,000 4-year-olds entered a classroom for the first time. Next year, we’ll have ‘Pre-K for All,’ with over 70,000 seats for our youngest learners,” he said. “But pre-K is only the beginning—we’re building a comprehensive set of supports.”
De Blasio’s staff would not allow press to ask the mayor any questions at the event.
Following the award ceremony, Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) addressed the issue of Ebola during an interview with PJ Media.
Edwards, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee, was asked if Congress should reduce the number of tourist visas issued by the U.S. to citizens of West African nations.
“I actually do believe the United States has the best public health infrastructure in the world. At this stage, frankly, I’m more concerned about the seniors in my district not getting their flu shots because more people will probably due of the flu,” Edwards responded.
“It doesn’t mean that we needn’t be concerned about Ebola. I think, first of all, making sure that we’ve dedicated the resources that we have to the African nations that are the most affected so that we can begin to contain and stop the spread of the disease,” she added.
To stop the spread of the disease domestically, Edwards said the U.S. must make sure the nation’s entire public health infrastructure is alerted to the symptoms of Ebola and attempt to identify the people that might be symptomatic when they arrive in the U.S.
She also said there would be plenty of time for Congress to address the Ebola outbreak when lawmakers return to Washington after the midterm elections.