By BRYAN CORLISS
EVERETT — Union activists and working families must make a concerted effort to oust Republicans from Congress, put Al Gore in the White House and send "George Bush and Dick Cheney to a Texas outhouse," the president of the AFL-CIO told Snohomish County labor leaders Tuesday.
Union president John Sweeney and other Washington labor leaders met with heads of Snohomish County unions Tuesday morning to urge them to greater efforts on behalf of union-endorsed candidates — almost all of them Democrats — in the final two weeks of the campaign season.
Democratic congressional candidate Rick Larsen also asked for more union support. "If you vote absentee, I want you to vote for me today," he said. "If not, wait till Nov. 7."
The meeting was one of a series Sweeney is holding in Washington and Oregon to "energize and activate our leadership to pull out all the stops," the union leader said.
With the presidential race so tight and with control of Congress and the Washington Legislature at stake, "What we must tell our members is that their vote makes a difference," Sweeney said. "Their choices make a difference."
He attacked Republican candidate George W. Bush’s policy proposals, calling Bush’s proposed $1.6 trillion tax cut a waste of money that would be better spent strengthening Social Security or Medicare.
And he attacked Bush’s performance as governor of Texas, saying he opposed a patients’ bill of rights and expanded health care for poor children, and fought union representation for public service employees.
"We can’t let George Bush get away with wrapping himself in our agenda and running away from his record in Texas," Sweeney said. "He thinks the federal minimum wage should be voluntary. He wants to turn Social Security over to Wall Street and turn Medicare over to the insurance lobby."
He must be stopped, and that’s where union members come in, Sweeney said.
"We have something money can’t buy — our heads, our hands and our hearts," he said. "We have to roll up our sleeves, get on those telephones … and win the war in the trenches."
Washington State Labor Council president Rick Bender told those present — including a number of Democratic legislative candidates — that the key to success in state elections is mobilizing union voters.
There are 750,000 registered voters living in union households around the state, he said. "Getting our people out to vote, that’s going to be critical."
Larsen agreed — and got a shot in against his Republican opponent, John Koster.
"We need a Congress that’s continually going to stand up for working families instead of continually undermining the laws that protect them," Larsen said. "We get our people out to vote — we win. We get our people out to vote — you win."
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