New Year, New Hope

Guest Commentary

Volume CV, No. 2February, 2005

Senator Chuck Schumer

As 2005 begins, it is time for a new direction.

Our nation is at war. Our economy is stuck in neutral and our budget deficit is the largest in history. Social Security and Medicare each need special attention as our nation ages. It is time to set this nation back on the right course to a job-generating economy, a more secure world, and a more just America.

First of all, though, let me say I appreciate the opportunity to communicate with the members of Local 802.

Local 802 has a long rich history, and plays a major role in the economy and culture of New York City.

Where would we be without live music? The music of Local 802 can be heard all throughout the city, and Nassau and Suffolk counties, from Lincoln Center, to Broadway, to our world-famous jazz clubs.

The work done by the members of Local 802 enriches our lives even as your members enrich the communities in which they live.

Moreover, Local 802 has been at the forefront of securing livable wages and decent benefits for its members as well as playing a leadership role in fighting for progressive issues like more affordable health care and housing and an increase in the minimum wage.

We need more unions like Local 802 all over this nation.


One of the biggest problems confronting American workers is the fact that only 13 percent of the U.S. workforce is unionized.

Unions are the key factors in securing better wages, decent benefits and the opportunity to get to, and stay in, the middle class.

To address this dire situation I am pushing a bill I wrote that would require the federal government to recognize unions when a majority of workers in a company sign written authorizations in favor of forming a union, a process called “card check.”

In the last several decades, employers and their lawyers have learned every trick in the book to stop unionization efforts, making it virtually impossible to organize the modern workplace. With the economy in the tank and incomes of average Americans remaining stagnant, workers need unions like never before. The idea behind this bill is to update the labor laws to ensure employees can more easily organize their workplaces.

We need to ensure that the right to organize a union exists in the real world, because that’s how we create more jobs that can support families. That means reforming our labor laws to protect the rights of workers to bargain contracts and organize on a level playing field without interference. We need to work to reverse this Administration’s cuts in wages for working people by restoring overtime protections for hard-working Americans who should be compensated fairly for the hours they put in. The fight continues to improve and protect working people’s standard of living, job security, and right to organize.


I was recently offered a once-in-a-career opportunity that would allow me to serve even more fully the state and the country I love.

Senator Harry Reid, who will soon become Minority Leader, offered me a seat on the Senate Finance Committee. The Finance Committee has jurisdiction over tax, trade, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. These will be crucial, battleground issues in the upcoming Congress and decade. Given its broad jurisdiction, the Finance Committee’s importance to New York — and to New Yorkers of all philosophies — cannot be overstated.

Additionally, I will retain my seat on the Judiciary Committee, enabling me to continue my fight for moderation on the bench at a decisive time when several vacancies to the Supreme Court are likely to occur.

We are at a crossroads both internationally and domestically, and to have an enhanced role in figuring out how we as a nation navigate these shoals is as exciting as it is vital.

I’ve been a legislator for 30 years. It is what I know how to do and what I love to do.

The fact that the Senate has four fewer Democrats is not something to run away from, but a new challenge to be taken on, substantively and politically. It is a challenge I relish.

I look forward to addressing those challenges in partnership with the leadership and rank and file of Local 802.