THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Las Vegas, Nevada)
|For Immediate Release
|March 18, 1998
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO THE TRAINING CENTER WORKERS
Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Training Center
Las Vegas, Nevada
12:35 P.M. PST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. It's a good thing we've got a22ndAmendment, or I would run again. Thanks for saying that. Let me begin bysaying that when Maggie Carleton was talking, I leaned over to John Sweeneyand I said, John, I'd give anything if we could just get her speech ontelevision tonight. That's the America we're trying to build foreverybody.(Applause.)
I know that your husband and your daughters were proud ofyou, but I think every working man and woman out here was proud of you forwhat you said and what you represented. Your family is living proof thatifwe reward people for their work, if we enable people to succeed at work and athome raising their children, if we give them the chance to be goodcitizens,then America is going to do very well indeed. (Applause.)
I want to thank the others up here on this platform withme.I want to thank John Sweeney for his brilliant, energetic leadership of thelabor movement. He has been terrific. (Applause.) I want to thank DougMcCarron for his leadership for the carpenters and his ever-presentwillingness to let me know exactly what he thinks I should be doing oneveryissue. (Laughter and applause.) I want to thank Bob Georgine for manythings, but I want to congratulate him most recently on helping to bringaboutthe major labor agreement in Nevada between building and construction tradeworkers, Bechtel and the Department of Energy, and so many other triumphsonbehalf of the working people he represents. Thank you. (Applause.)
I am especially indebted to Linda Chavez Thompson,the Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO, for her membershipon the President's National Advisory Panel on Race, in ourattempt to build an America in the 21st century where we all getalong and work together across all the racial and ethnic linesthat divide us. Thank you. (Applause.)
Let me also say I am profoundly grateful to myformer colleague and longtime friend, Governor Bob Miller; and toMayor Jan Jones who was such a great friend of my mother's, aswell as a friend of mine, for their personal kindness to me, andtheir leadership here in this great city and state. You are verywell served and I know you know that. Thank you. (Applause.)
I brought a lot of folks with me today from theadministration, but three in particular work with the labormovement -- I thank the Deputy Secretary of Labor Kitty Higgins,and Maria Echaveste and Karen Tramontano coming from the WhiteHouse. They've worked with a lot of you and they do a lot ofwork for you, whether you know it or not, every day. And I'mvery proud of them. (Applause.)
Now, you know, I took a tour of what goes on herebefore I came out, and I told some of the folks on the tour -- Ithanked Bill Howard and Paul Sonner, who was the instructor inthe classroom I visited, and all the people who are in the JointApprenticeship Training Center today who helped to enlighten meabout what you're doing. But I told some folks that 30 years agoI actually spent a summer building houses, and I decided I didn'twant to work that hard, which is how come I got into politics.(Laughter and applause.) It didn't strike me as being any easiernow than it was 30 years ago. (Laughter.)
But there are a lot of interesting things going onin this program. I hope, for example, that just my presence hereand the fact that so many members of the media came with us willlead people to know that more and more construction is now beingdone with reprocessed steel instead of wood in homes and hotelsand other things. And that has enormous environmental and energyimplications for the future if we can make that work, and thatyou are being trained to do that work. (Applause.)
I do feel that I learned enough today to go home andbuild a two-bedroom house for Socks and for Buddy, and that'swhat I intend to do. (Laughter.) Unfortunately, when I do it, Iwon't earn the union wage, but I will have your knowledge.
Let me say to all of you that, first, I just want tothank you for giving me a chance to be here. (Applause.) Youknow, every now and then you just have to get out here in thecountry -- it helps the President to remember why he ran, whathe's trying to do and for whom he is really working. And I haveseen all of that here today. (Applause.)
You here have shown me a model of two-by-fours andteamwork -- a model for the nation of cooperation betweenbusiness and labor; cooperation of crafts across generations,adapting old-fashioned values to today's work place. There arejust 653 days left in the 20th century; there are just 653 daysleft in this whole millennium. This century will be rememberedas a time when millions of working men and women fought for andwon basic freedoms too longed denied them -- the right to safework places; the freedom to organize, the ability to put an endto abusive child labor, the right to have health insurance andretirement and earn a decent wage for labor. Working familiesacross our country gained their voice in the 20th century, and inso doing, they built the greatest middle class in human history.(Applause.)
Now, what will happen in the new century? Well,what will it be like; how will it be different? The first thingwe know is that things will change more and faster for all of youin the new century than it did in the old one. The sheer volumeof knowledge is changing -- is doubling, doubling, every fiveyears. When I became President there were 50 web sites on theInternet -- 50 -- 5, 0. Now, 65,000 are being added every hour.So your life is going to buy at a faster pace.
The second thing you know is that it will be moreglobal. We will be in a global economy, but we will also be inan increasingly global society. If you doubt that, just lookaround the room here. If we had had this meeting 10 years ago --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible interruption.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Shut up!
THE PRESIDENT: Couldn't have said it better myself.(Applause.) You ought to run for office. (Laughter.)
I look around -- if we had had this meeting 10 yearsago, think how differently this crowd would have looked. So theworld is changing. The way we work, the way we live, the way werelate to each other. What will happen in this new century?What will happen if technology dominates more? We won't run outof work, we'll have different kind of work. The unemploymentrate today is very low, but there are almost 400,000 vacancies inAmerica in computer-related jobs. So we know that things willchange more and we'll have to educate and train more. And evenold jobs will be done in new ways.
But we also know that if we do it right, we've got achance finally to include all working people in the Americanmiddle class. We've got a chance to bring dignity to the livesof all people. We've got a chance to give every child the chanceto live up to his or her God-given abilities. In short, we'vegot a chance to bring the American Dream home to everybody whowill work for it. And we ought to seize that chance.(Applause.)
That's the American Dream that the employees ofFrontier Hotel spent six years, four months and 10 days fightingto achieve. (Applause.) And this is important. But maybe evenmore important, it's the American Dream that I learned againtoday up in that classroom I just visited. It's the AmericanDream that I learned again today that union members want for allworking families. (Applause.)
I see it in Washington. John Sweeney has arelatively small percentage of the membership of the AFL-CIO thatwill get a direct benefit when we raise the minimum wage again.But he works for it just as hard as if 100 percent of his memberswere going to be benefited by it, because he knows it's the rightthing to do. (Applause.)
And today when I was in that classroom upstairs, youknow what the students were learning in the classroom? They werelearning about how much of their base pay is in fringe benefits-- what's retirement, what's health care, what's continuingeducation, what does all this money go for? And they asked mequestions about Social Security and how we were going to makesure that private pensions were secure. And I talked to themabout what we've been doing on that the last five years. Andthey asked about health care and how working families got alongthat didn't have any health insurance, and why we didn't havehealth insurance for every single working family. And I said, ifit had been up to me and the AFL-CIO, every working family wouldhave health insurance today, and we ought to see it. (Applause.)
I only wish my wife could have been upstairs to hearthat conversation about health care. And they asked me about howpeople got along who didn't make as much per hour as they earnedin fringe benefits alone. One young man said, there are peoplebuilding houses in other places who don't make as much per houras we get in fringe benefits. How do they get along?
And so we talked about how we try to help them withthe Family and Medical Leave, how we tried to help them withdifferent changes in the health insurance laws, and how we triedto help them with changes in retirement systems. But I askedthat group of young people when I left, I said, I just hopeyou'll never forget this, because we've got to make sure everyfamily can succeed at home and at work, and as long as peoplelike you care about people who aren't making as much per hour asyou get in fringe benefits, we'll keep making it better for them.And I hope all of you will always feel that way. (Applause.)
Now, let me just say very quickly, I want to talk toyou about what's going on in Washington that will affect yourfuture, and ask you for your help. These are good times for thecountry. We're going to have the first balanced budget in 30years. (Applause.) And 15 million new jobs in five years, thelowest unemployment in 24 years, the lowest crime rate in 24years, the lowest welfare rolls in 27 years, the lowest inflationin 30 years, and the highest home ownership in the history of theUnited States of America. (Applause.)
But what I want to say to you is, you don't have tobe a carpenter to know that you don't fix the roof when it'sraining. You fix the roof when the sun is shining. The sun isshining on America. But as long as there are people who don'thave jobs, as long as there are people who can't make a decentliving, as long as we don't have a system which guaranteeslifetime, high quality, educational opportunities like I saw heretoday to all working families, the roof of America's house is notas strong as it ought to be.
So what I came here today to tell you today is, thisis a great time, but let me say again, it is changing fast. Andwe have to think about the challenges that all of you are goingto face five years from now, 10 years from now, what will yourchildren face 15 and 20 years from now. And we have to do thosethings today, while we have the confidence and the strength andthe prosperity to do them, that will secure the future of ourchildren tomorrow in a new century. (Applause.)
One of the main reasons I wanted to be here today isthat I think all of you know instinctively that the mostimportant thing we can do in a world where the volume ofknowledge is doubling every five years is to give every person aworld-class education and every adult access to education andtraining for a lifetime. (Applause.)
Now, we've made a lot of progress in the last fiveyears. When we started on -- the Vice President and I started totry to hook up all the classrooms and libraries in the country tothe Internet by 2000. We started in '94, only 34 percent of ourschools were hooked up. Today, 75 percent are. We're doingbetter. (Applause.) We've got 900 colleges out there with youngpeople earning work-study funds by going into our grade schoolsand teaching our kids to read, to make sure everybody can readindependently by the end of the 3rd grade. That's important.(Applause.)
And perhaps most important to all of you withchildren, we can literally say now -- this is what we've done inthe last year: We passed a $1,500 tax credit for the first twoyears of college; tax credits for junior year, senior year,graduate school; adults going back for further job training; andIRA you can put money into, withdraw from for your kid'seducation with no tax penalty; tax deductions for interest onstudent loans; 300,000 more work-study positions. People can gothrough our National Service program, AmeriCorps, and earn moneyto go to college. We can literally say now because of thechanges we've made in loans, in scholarships and tax breaks, wehave opened the doors of college in America to everybody who'swilling to work for a college education. That will revolutionizetheir future. (Applause.)
But let's be candid with one another. Everybodywith an informed opinion knows that America has the best systemof colleges and universities in the world. There are literally300, maybe 400 -- maybe more -- places you can go and get aworld-class undergraduate education in this country. But no onethinks we have the best elementary and secondary education in theworld. Now, we have a lot of great teachers, we have a lot ofgreat schools, our students are just as smart as anybodyanywhere. But nobody thinks it's the best in the world. One ofthe reasons is we have a very diverse student body; we have localcontrol of the schools; we have three different sources offunding from the state, federal and local government; and wedon't have any national standards of what people should know ormeasurements of it.
So I think we need more grass-roots reform, but weought to have national standards and voluntary national exams.We ought to spend more money to give smaller classes. We oughtto make sure that in these places where they're overflowing withstudents, and the school buildings are old and breaking down, orthe kids are out in house trailers, they're in decent classrooms.
And I have offered a plan this year to hire 100,000more teachers to take class size in the first three grades downto an average of 18 students per class. (Applause.) To makechild care of higher quality and more affordable. To helpschools stay open after instruction hours are over, because mostkids get in trouble after school closes down and before theirparents get home from work. (Applause.) To rehabilitate orbuild 5,000 new schools in the country. And also to providegreater health and retirement security to people who have put alifetime of work in.
Now, these are very important things. We have abalanced budget now; we can afford to do these things. But thereare some troubling signals coming out of Washington that theRepublican budget may not embody this commitment to education andour future. The budget they're talking about does meet my goalof achieving a balance and not spending any of the surplus untilwe fix Social Security. But it shortchanges our nation's future.We're not fixing the roof for the 21st century. Because fromHead Start for young children to Pell Grants, from job trainingfor older workers, our commitment to education is under fire.
I need your help. This ought not to be a partisanpolitical issue. I can remember a time when, on education, bothparties were foursquare for investing in the future of ourcountry if we had the money. I'm telling you, we've got themoney; it's time to invest in the future of our country andeducation. (Applause.)
And if the Republican budget says no to new teachersand smaller classes, no to modernizing our schools, no toinvesting in higher standards for our children, the Americanpeople should say no to that budget. Give us a budget that willprepare our children for the 21st century. (Applause.)
There are a lot of other things that I'd like to askyou to help me with, and I won't bore you with all of them, butjust let me mention a few. We've got people in this countrybetween the ages of 55 and 65 who worked hard all their lives andhave lost their health insurance, and they're not old enough toget Medicare. And generally, they're in three categories. Theyare people who are married to folks who are old enough to be onMedicare, and so when their spouse got on Medicare the familylost their health insurance and the younger spouse has no healthcare and can't afford to buy any.
They're people who lost their jobs, and they're over55, and they can't afford just a single person's healthinsurance. They're people who took voluntary early retirementwho are over 55, who were promised by their employer they wouldhave health insurance and then the promise was broken. I thinkwe ought to let those people and their families, help them to buyinto Medicare at cost. It will not hurt you, it will not hurtMedicare; it will help hundreds of thousands of people.(Applause.)
Two years ago, we raised the minimum wage and it wasa good thing. Two years ago we raised the minimum wage, peoplesaid, oh, this is terrible, it will bring on inflation and itwill slow down job growth. And in the last two years since weraised the minimum wage, inflation has gone down and job growthhas gone up. It's good for America to pay people a decent wage.(Applause.)
The minimum wage in real dollar terms is still lowerthan it was 20 years ago -- it's still lower than it was 20 yearsago. With our economy as strong as it is, with job growth asgood as it is, we can afford to increase the minimum wage by adollar over the next two years and I think it's the right thingto do. (Applause.)
I also want you to know that we have to continue inWashington to fight for the right to organize and to function ina union that will permit you to have a life you enjoy.(Applause.) We know that workers and unions typically have notonly higher pay, but have access to higher skills, bettercontinuing education, which is good for the rest of the country.You make the rest of us stronger as you learn more new things anddo more new things and continue to push us in the future. Thereis a bill now in Congress that would let businesses fire orrefuse to hire union organizers. If it passes, I'll veto it.But you ought to help me do this in the first place. (Applause.)
I thank you for that cheer. But what you reallywant is to never even have to think about cheering for somethinglike that again. Because what really works -- what really worksis when we all work together. You can help management make abigger profit. You can help the owners of every enterprise earnmore money. You can make the private sector stronger and helpcreate more jobs, if we will cooperate in a spirit that says wehave to reaffirm the dignity of the people who work for us day inand day out. They ought to be able to raise their children indignity. They ought to be able to educate their children. Theyought to be able to know that when their kids get sick they cango to the doctor. They ought to be able to know that when theycome of age they can go on to college. We ought to live in thekind of country that says we are going to make the future betterfor our children and we are going to honor our parents.(Applause.)
On my wall in my private office on the second floorof the White House I have a letter written before I was born tomy aunt in Texas by the man who was then the Speaker of the Houseof Representatives, Sam Rayburn -- legendary Speaker of the Houseof Representatives from Texas. (Applause.) And he wrote my aunta letter when my father was killed in a car wreck. My aunt gaveme that letter last year, 50 years later. But I see that letterall the time and it reminds me not only of my family ties, but ofSam Rayburn, and the kind of leadership he gave to our country.Sam Rayburn said something about politics that all of youespecially should always remember. He said, any old mule cankick a barn down; it takes a carpenter to build one. (Applause.)
And what I'm trying to do is to hold down the barnkickers -- (laughter) -- and lift up the builders. I want you tobe with me. Thank you. Bless you.