This is our moment, this is our time to change the course of history. —Scott WalkerRonald Reagan, Remarks in Chicago, Illinois, at the Annual Convention and Centennial Observance of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, 3 September 1981:
This union has a proud history. Just 100 years ago, having only a few thousand members, you opened your first convention in Chicago. Now, it's not true that I attended that convention, also. [Laughter] Since then, you've grown to more than 800,000 members. You've served as a bulwark in America's free union movement.Ronald Reagan, Labor Day Speech at Liberty State Park, Jersey City, New Jersey, 1 September 1980:
Over the years, this union was responsible for improving the well-being of its members as they labored building this Nation. And through the collective bargaining system, you improved images—or wages, I should say—benefits, and working conditions. More than that, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners has shown time and time again that it supports our free market system and the fundamental tenets of American democracy. It was this belief in representative government and free enterprise that gave the working people of this country unequaled freedom and prosperity.
We forget this at our peril. In these recent years when advocates of collectivism and government intervention have held sway, we should recall the wisdom of that greatest of labor statesmen, the founder of the American labor movement, Samuel Gompers. He said, "Doing for people what they can and ought to do for themselves is a dangerous experiment. In the last analysis, the welfare of the workers depends on their own initiative. Whatever is done under the guise of philanthropy or social morality which in any way lessens initiative is the greatest crime that can be committed against the toilers. Let social busybodies and professional 'public morals experts' in their fads reflect upon the perils they rashly invite under this pretense of social welfare."
Samuel Gompers believed with all his heart that if a worker was properly and fairly paid for his work, he could provide for himself without having to hold out this hand to a caseworker for government-provided benefits. He was a champion of collective bargaining.
Collective bargaining in the years since has played a major role in America's economic miracle. Unions represent some of the freest institutions in this land. There are few finer examples of participatory democracy to be found anywhere. Too often, discussion about the labor movement concentrates on disputes, corruption, and strikes. But while these things are headlines, there are thousands of good agreements reached and put into practice every year without a hitch.
Part of successful collective bargaining is honest, straightforward exchanges. A number of Presidents have observed that of all the meetings in the Oval Office, the most direct, productive, and useful have been with the leaders of organized labor. Straight talk has always been a feature of these exchanges, and that's a tradition I want to continue here today. You and I may not always agree, as President Konyha said, on everything, but we should always remember how much we have in common.
I can guarantee you today that this administration will not fight inflation by attacking the sacred right of American workers to negotiate their wages. We propose to control government, not people. Now, today I want to express again my belief in our American system of collective bargaining and pledge that there will always be an open door to you in this administration.
During my 8 years as Governor of California, I was proud of my relationship with organized labor. Yes, we had disagreements over such things as welfare reform and budget allocation, but we followed the advice of a one-time mayor of Boston who said, "We can disagree without being disagreeable."
Some people would have forgotten-except your president very graciously reminded you—that I am the first man to attain this high office who was formerly president of an AF of L-CIO union.
On this day, dedicated to American working men and women, may I tell you the vision I have of a new administration and of a new Congress, filled with new members dedicated to the values we honor today?
Beginning in January of 1981, American workers will once again be heeded. Their needs and values will be acted upon in Washington. I will consult with representatives of organized labor on those matters concerning the welfare of the working people of this nation.
I happen to be the only president of a union ever to be a candidate for President of the United States.
As president of my union -- the Screen Actors Guild -- I spent many hours with the late George Meany, whose love of this country and whose belief in a strong defense against all totalitarians is one of labor’s greatest legacies. One year ago today on Labor Day George Meany told the American people:
“As American workers and their families return from their summer vacations they face growing unemployment and inflation, a climate of economic anxiety and uncertainty."
Well I pledge to you in his memory that the voice of the American worker will once again be heeded in Washington and that the climate of fear that he spoke of will no longer threaten workers and their families.
When we talk about tax reduction, when we talk about ending inflation by stopping it where it starts -- in Washington -- we are talking about a way to bring labor and management together for America. We are talking about jobs, and productivity and wages. We are talking about doing away with Jimmy Carter’s view of a no-growth policy, and ever-shrinking economic pie with smaller pieces for each of us.
That’s no answer. We can have a bigger pie with bigger slices for everyone. I believe that together you and I can bake that bigger pie. We can make that dream that brought so many of us or our parents and grandparents to this land live once more.
Let us work to protect the human right to acquire and own a home, and make sure that that right is extended to as many Americans as possible. A home is part of that dream.
I want to work in Washington to roll back the crushing burden of taxation that limits investment, production, and the generation of real wealth for our people. A job, and savings, and hope for our children is part of that dream.
I want to help Americans of every race, creed and heritage keep and build that sense of community which is at the heart of America, for a decent neighborhood is part of that dream.
We will work to strengthen the small business sector which creates most of the new jobs we need for our people. Small business needs relief from government paperwork, relief from over-regulation, relief from a host of governmentally-created problems that defeat the effort of creative men and women. A chance to invest, build and produce new wealth is part of the dream.
But restoring the American dream requires more than restoring a sound, productive economy, vitally important as that is. It requires a return to spiritual and moral values, values so deeply held by those who came here to build a new life. We need to restore those values in our daily life, in our neighborhoods and in our government’s dealings with the other nations of the world.
These are the values inspiring those brave workers in Poland. The values that have inspired other dissidents under Communist domination. They remind us that where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost. They remind us that freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. You and I must protect and preserve freedom here or it will not be passed on to our children. Today the workers in Poland are showing a new generation not how high is the price of freedom but how much it is worth that price.