Health Care Reform

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Violence and Racism in Health Care Attacks

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–March 26, 2010.  The following remarks are attributable to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

This week, we have seen the best and worst of America. 

Sunday’s health care vote showed we can win real change when we put our minds to it.  The health care bill is an extraordinary step forward – the most important legislation to help all Americans in three decades.  It broke our sense of hopelessness and resignation over our political possibilities.  And it underscored what we know about how our nation should work—that perseverance, hard work and leadership can overcome not only honest disagreements, but special interests as big and stubborn as the insurance industry.  

But the threats and the violence being directed at elected officials that had the courage to take a stand represent an ugly appeal to fear and division.  And they come at a dangerous cost.   

When I was at the Capitol on Sunday, I saw Republican lawmakers come out onto balconies and egg on hateful crowds like giddy teenagers, waving signs and chanting to fire up the protestors.  They set the foundation for a dangerous climate, and they must take the lead in stopping it.   

In America, thankfully, we all have the right to make our voices heard. We in the labor movement are no strangers to protest and civil disobedience.  But many of the chants and signs I heard and saw were those of an ugly mob, not participation in the political process.  

Racial and homophobic slurs, death threats and guns have no place in civil discourse.  Nor should differences of view on abortion rights and funding lead to name-calling and violence.  

We call on the leaders of both political parties to join together and reject violence and vitriol with a united voice.  We cannot allow it to set us back or create false divisions for partisan purposes.