Edwards speaks at Labor Day rally in DSM

It’s Labor Day and I’m at a wooden table, sitting on a wooden chair, typing on my laptop as union folks swarm around the 4-H Building on the Iowa State Fairgrounds.  John Edwards is scheduled to speak in a few minutes.  Hillary Clinton will speak in a couple of hours. Good news – the building’s now air conditioned. 

Bad news for some of those who attended the Labor Day parade.  A pit bull attacked three people along the parade route, according to WHO-TV newsman Dave Price.  Watch the news tonight for details.

John Campbell of the United Steelworkers is introducing Edwards to the crowd.  They’re playing Bruce Springsteen.  Steelworkers in bright yellow t-shirts are standing up on stage to provide the backdrop for Edwards.

Edwards is now on stage.  “Thank you.  Thank you.  It’s wonderful to be here with all of you today…to celebrate the men & women who made America what it is today…..so every single working man and woman has a chance to support their families.”

Edwards touts his “universal” health care plan.  “We know that we have 47 million people in America…2 million more over last year….When are we finally going to stand up” and pass health care reform, he asked the crowd.

Next up:  trade policy, then he quickly talks about union rights.

“We also have to make sure that every single American who works for a living gets a chance to join a union….We have to grow & strengthen the organized labor movement….It is crucial to growing the middle class in America….The organized labor movement built the middle class in America…I want to be the pres who grows the labor movement.”

“When I’m president, when you’re walking that picket line, nobody – nobody will be able to walk through that picket line and take your job,” Edwards says, to loud cheers and applause from the union crowd.

Edwards mentions the three unions which have endorsed his candidacy. “I want to be the candidate who every single day talks about the struggles of the middle class…the economic disparity still exists,” he says.

“We don’t need a surge in Baghdad.  We need a surge in New Orleans where our people are hurting,” Edwards said. 

“We need a movement and a movement starts in a place like this….people who still believe in what’s possible in America…..We’re going to change this country.”

SHORT speech.  Next, Edwards answers reporters’ questions.

First question, from me, about Dick Gephardt.  Gephardt got the support of nearly all of organized labor in 2004, but he tanked in the Caucuses and dropped out shortly afterwards. 

“I think the success of union’s ability to organize is dependent on how deep into the union the leadership went in deciding who to support.  I know that in the case of the carpenters, the steelworkers and the mine workers that they went to their membership to find out who the membership wanted to support and work for and that, I think, is different and I think what that means at least to those three unions is that they will be able to generate significant support and organizing, particularly in the early states,” Edwards said.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.