Katie Grant, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) delivered remarks today at the UAW Legislative Conference on the importance of working together to create jobs and strengthen the economy, which is the goal of House Democrats' Make It In America jobs plan. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Good morning. I can’t tell you how excited I am to join you today. This is an exciting time for American manufacturing and for the hard-working members of the UAW.
“I want to thank Bob for inviting me, and let me also thank Gary for that wonderful introduction. Bob and I shared a great experience last January when he joined me and a number of Michigan Democrats in participating in a visit to the Detroit Auto Show organized by Representative John Dingell.
“I’ve been to a number of auto shows before, but this one was special. There was a palpable excitement in the room – anticipation not only of new models but of a shifting tide in the industry – the realization of a turning point. That same excitement was apparent, too, when Bob took John and me to visit Solidarity House – there we saw an eagerness to create new products and new opportunities for our auto workers.
“We sat behind the wheel of many new cars that day – cars proudly made here in America. As you know well, there’s a lot that goes into building a quality vehicle. In much the same way, there’s a lot that goes into building a strong America and a quality standard of living for Americans.
“Our economic challenges are deep, and they will not be easily overcome. But I firmly believe we can overcome them.
“We have seen record budget surpluses under President Clinton transform over the last ten years into record deficits. We have seen millions of Americans lose their jobs or come of age in a job market with fewer and fewer opportunities for work. We have seen our competitors overseas invest in education and innovation during years in which we should have been making those same investments. We have also seen other countries manipulate their currencies or sidestep trade agreements to make it harder for us to export our goods.
“At the same time, though, just like at the auto show last year, there is a palpable excitement in America that things are starting to turn around – all signs are pointing toward recovery and progress.
“Last month, our economy created 257,000 private sector jobs, beating expectations and representing the 23rd straight month of gains. At the same time, manufacturing is on the upswing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than half of metropolitan areas are seeing growth in manufacturing jobs, with Detroit leading the way. In 2011, American manufacturers had an excellent year, demonstrating the potential in our manufacturing sector to continue producing the goods that make the world run.
“Earlier this month, we heard the good news that General Motors not only posted its largest profit ever but that it has also regained its position as number one in the world for auto sales. This comes just two years after its rescue by the federal government.
“In 2009, some people said we should just let our automakers go bankrupt. They were dead wrong. You and I knew it then. Today, everyone knows it.
“What that rescue, and the resulting successes, taught us is that progress comes from partnership. Our auto industry is strong again because the companies were willing to make difficult changes, because you were ready to work together with management to enact reforms, and because Congress was prepared to make an investment in preserving jobs.
“Business, labor, and government working together to move America forward – that’s the model for success we need to embrace.
“Such a partnership is the focus of House Democrats’ comprehensive jobs plan, which we call Make It In America.
“Now, after Bob took us to the auto show last year, I invited him to be a part of the planning for Make It In America, and Bob was there to help launch it at our annual conference. We were so glad to have him there to speak about how the UAW and auto executives worked together – and worked with the federal government – to avert a bankruptcy and save thousands of jobs.
“Make It In America is more than a list of bills. It is an agenda for both short-term job creation and long-term competitiveness that will rebuild our manufacturing sector and sustain American jobs for a generation.
“It is premised on this simple truth: if we can help our manufacturers make it in America – that is, make products here and sell them around the world – if we can do that, it will enable more of our people to ‘make it’ in America. To succeed, to advance, to climb ladders of opportunity.
“How do we do it? First, we need a national manufacturing strategy that brings all stakeholders to the table. Labor will play a central role in this process.
“Make It In America also includes Buy-American provisions to require government agencies, like Homeland Security, to buy goods and materials that are made right here in the U.S.
“A critical component of our plan is investment in infrastructure. Just as we did in the 1950’s and 60’s in laying down thousands of miles of interstate, we want to repair and build the infrastructure our country needs to move people and transport products to market. This is part of what government can do to help businesses grow, hire new workers, and expand opportunities for those already employed.
"Just as we plan to invest in infrastructure, we will also be investing in education and innovation. Our competitors are graduating more and more engineers, and we need to do the same. That’s why Make It In America focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math education – or the ‘STEM’ areas – and will foster partnerships between manufacturers and local community colleges to train young people in advanced manufacturing skills. We will also expand and make permanent the research and development tax credit to help companies innovate and commercialize new products that can be built here.
“Recognizing that we need a level playing field for American exporters, Make It In America includes legislation to hold other nations accountable when they manipulate their currencies. In the same vein, Democrats succeeded in enacting expanded Trade Adjustment Assistance for workers displaced by international trade.
“Ultimately, Make It In America is about coming together – collaborating to move this country forward. Government on its own can’t create jobs. Businesses alone cannot stimulate the growth we need. By itself, labor can’t create new opportunities for hiring and advancement. But, by working as partners, government, business, and labor can recreate the conditions for prosperity that have fueled the American Dream for centuries. Make It In America is about reigniting the American Dream and enabling us to pass it on to our children and grandchildren. And we have a lot of work to do.
“The UAW and organized labor has always been a central stakeholder in the fight to make the American Dream attainable for all. From the Progressive Era to the 1960’s and beyond, labor unions have declared loud and clear: workers’ rights are civil rights. Democrats are proud to stand beside you to reaffirm that truth and combat efforts to limit collective bargaining rights.
“Over the past few years, we’ve worked together to achieve a number of important accomplishments. In 2007, you told Congress that your members could build better and more fuel-efficient vehicles, and we worked with you and the automakers to set fuel economy standards that are already reshaping the industry. When you told us that dealers were unable to move their inventory, stalling new orders, we worked together to enact the wildly successful ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program.
“With your input and support, we passed health care reform that will provide coverage to millions and bring costs down for working families.
"Despite their talk about creating jobs, Republicans have yet to introduce a comprehensive jobs plan. Worse, they refuse to consider our Make It In America plan. Their focus instead, as you know all too well, has been on rolling back environmental protections, safety standards, and workers’ rights. One notable example has been Senate Republicans blocking President Obama’s nominees to serve on the National Labor Relations Board.
“At the end of the day, though, I am confident that we will succeed. We will succeed because there is a pent-up demand in this country not only for the goods you produce but for a pride in American manufacturing and for the dignity of hard work. When there is a demand, supply will meet it – and we will remain the world’s manufacturing leader. We will remain a nation where those who want a job can find one and where those who work hard can afford to send their kids to school and retire without the fear of poverty.
“Your leader for so many years, Walter Reuther, recognized that labor has a role to play in making our economy strong and ensuring it yields opportunities for all our people. He said – and I quote: ‘Labor is not fighting for a larger slice of the national pie – labor is fighting for a larger pie.’
“Let us work together – labor, government, and business – to carry that fight forward.”