Governor Deval L. Patrick
54th Annual AFL-CIO Convention
Boston Marriott, Quincy
Friday, October 7, 2011

As Delivered:

Thank you very much Mr. President, to you and the executive board. Congratulations, I look forward to working with you.  I don’t know why you have to keep emphasizing over and over again that we’ve had our differences.  But I guess it has to be acknowledged.  I congratulate you on your election.  You have an ambition agenda at this convention and beyond and I appreciate your allowing me a few moments to come by to thank you again, all of you, for what you have done to help me and to help our administration be better, and what you do to help working people across the Commonwealth.  You are now passing the torch and looking forward and I congratulate you.

Bobby Haynes, thank you for your friendship and also for your leadership.  Bobby is loud, right, loud, but his volume has everything to do with the passion he feels and the dedication he has and he brings to the working families of the Commonwealth.  You have been an important partner. All of you have.

Together, we enacted one of the first Card Check bills in America.

Working together, we extended unemployment benefits to thousands of workers reeling from this recession. 

Working together, with the leadership of an extraordinary Labor Secretary Joanne Goldstein and George Noel who is also here, we have fought effectively against the misclassification of workers in the underground economy, stamping out fraudulent employment activities and recovering over $6.5 million so far.

Working together, we entered into a project labor agreement with UMass Boston and are on track to enter into others.  Because we understand the opportunity to ensure quality in the construction and projects that are on time and on budget.  

Working together, we have enabled PCAs to organize, streamlined the sprawling transportation system into a single, customer-focused agency, preserved a place and a voice for you as municipalities rebalance municipal health care plans, moved new innovations into public schools and invested in education, innovation and infrastructure driving this economy today in the Commonwealth to grow jobs faster than 44 other states and grow at three times the national growth rate. 

That is just in the last few years.  Bobby, you and your leadership team -- and most especially your members -- have been central to every one of those victories for our Commonwealth.  So when I say thank you for your partnership, I say thank you on behalf of six and a half million people here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, working people -- in and out of the labor movement -- who have today a little more reason to hope.

And as you pass the torch to Steve, I want to respectfully urge you, all of you… really to challenge you:  be big. Be big. Be true to your legacy as reformers.  Because we need that really more than ever. 

Labor’s legacy out in front of a change agenda, as true reformers, is long and rich. 

It was laborers in 1773 who led the real tea party here in Boston.

It was labor who fought to outlaw child labor and to create workplace safety standards.

It was labor who brought us the weekend and the minimum wage.

My hero, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “The labor movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress.”  Reform is your legacy.  It’s a big, transformative legacy. 

In that sense, we need labor to “be big” right now.  Because thanks to decades of greed and self-centeredness, thanks to a constant din of “government is bad,” “no new taxes,” “everybody’s on his own,” rhetoric, thanks to too much political bullying and too little political courage, the American Dream is up for grabs right now.  People are losing work and losing hope.  And those people need you to be big.

We need federal tax reform so that everyone contributes according to his or her means -- be big. 

We need the American Jobs Act passed by this Congress and sent to the President’s desk, so that we can continue to invest in our infrastructure and in our schools and to help people get back to work -- be big.

We need a Congress, including a new democratic Massachusetts senator, that will work with this President to lift this country up, instead of asking him to save the economy with one hand tied behind his back -- be big.

We need a casino bill here in Massachusetts -- be big.

We need to fix the evergreen rules here in Massachusetts.

We need payment reform to contain health care costs for working families-- be big.

We need peace in our communities and hope in our hearts – you need to be big. I need you to be big.

So I challenge you, President Tolman, I challenge all of you who lead the labor movement:  I know you’re worried about protecting the ground you’ve gained over the years.  But none of it will matter, none of it, if we aren’t working together to restore the American Dream for each other and a generation to come.  For that, we need you…I need you, to be big.

So go get your members.  Go get the members who always pitch in and the ones who stopped caring. Go get the black and brown people, and the women, whom you and I both know aren’t well enough represented among your ranks.  Go get the New Americans who feel ostracized and scapegoated but who only want a piece of the same American dream you and your families want.  Go get the Republicans and Independents who you know tune you and me out.  And then go to the very people whose policies got us into this mess in the first place.  Go get the Democrats who need to grow a backbone and stand up for the values that make the American Dream possible.

All I’m asking you to do is go to work for work. Go to work for opportunity.  Go to work for whole and stronger connected communities, where people see a state not just in their own stroke, not just in their own dreams but in their neighbors as well.  Go to work for good, strong, progressive candidates.  Go to work for a Congress that will support this President and give him the tools he needs to help fix this economy. And for God’s sake, go to work for President Obama.

Be big.  Right now, because nothing else will do.

God bless you all.