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President, United Auto Workers Union
Remarks to the Democratic National Convention
September 5, 2012
The first woman to serve in both houses of Congress, Margaret Chase Smith, once said, "The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character."
Margaret Chase Smith was a Republican – but a very different kind than those Republicans trying to take over our country today.
In some of America's darkest economic days since the Great Depression, and in the face of tremendous political venom, President Obama met that true test of moral character. He stood up - not for what was popular and easy, but for what was right.
UAW President Bob King tells delegates that President Obama's rescue of the domestic auto industry wasn't popular, but was the right thing to do for America. Photo by John Davis/UAW Local 2195.
He stood with American workers – not just autoworkers – but a million workers in towns all across America who, if the auto industry went under, wouldn't be able to put food on the table.
We all remember what those days were like as President Obama took office.
Workers waiting anxiously as their companies announced layoffs…banks refusing to loan…car sales collapsing. It wasn't just auto companies struggling to survive; so were those making parts and selling cars.
Many small businesses that relied on autoworkers as customers – like diners and barbershops - had to close down.
Unfortunately, most Republicans advocated doing nothing. And what did Mitt Romney say? "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."
By contrast, President Obama took action, putting together a rescue team and demanding real change, real sacrifice, from everyone: management, labor, shareholders, suppliers, debt-holders, and dealers. It wasn't universally popular, but it was absolutely right.
President Obama's strong leadership saved more than a million jobs. Since June 2009, the industry has even added a quarter of a million jobs, and is thriving once again. These are good, middle-class jobs – in glass, plastics and steel. Jobs making things for an economy built to last.
And Mitt Romney's record? At Bain Capital, the corporate buyout firm he founded, too often he and his partners made their money not by building companies up, but by taking them apart. And too often, the workers ended up in the street, even as Romney and his partners walked away with millions.
Earlier this week, we celebrated Labor Day. Many people forget why we have that holiday… and why we have safe workplaces… health care… the 40-hour week…middle-class wages… all the standards that most people take for granted.
They did not just happen. They happened because generations of working people fought for -- sometimes even died for – the right to organize, and the right to bargain collectively. President Obama understands and supports these basic human rights - because these rights help all Americans.
Strong unions and collective bargaining lifted millions out of poverty, and built the great American middle class. And it's the middle class that keeps America's democracy and economy strong.
The Republicans? Just look at Wisconsin. They want to take us back to a time when workers couldn't stand up for themselves - couldn't speak with one voice, couldn't speak out for fairness, justice and middle-class opportunity.
That's why unions matter, and that's why I'm so proud to be a union member and proud to lead the men and women of the UAW. Because of President Obama’s moral courage and leadership, America's auto industry is roaring again, and we're proud to lead America's economic recovery.
An industry we once called the arsenal of democracy is driving us to a new prosperity.
This November, America faces a clear choice about what kind of country we want to be.
For working families, the choice is clear: we must re-elect President Barack Obama!