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Special Event

Sen. Lieberman Addresses Connecticut AFL-CIO Meeting

Aired August 7, 2000 - 11:36 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We go back live now to Hartford, Connecticut. The introductions taking place for Senator Joe Lieberman. He is speaking to the AFL-CIO group in Connecticut. Again, this is news worthy because we expect, within the hour, perhaps after he is done here, the senator from Connecticut will be receiving a very important phone call from Vice President Al Gore.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: And again, Senator Lieberman expected to comment there. We will have live coverage for you when that happens. He did speak with reporters outside that meeting hall there about an hour ago, and talked about what he has in common with the vice president, issues like the environment, issues regarding the Gulf War 10 years ago; also issues on the economy that have impacted the nation over the past eight years, that Al Gore has been the vice president for Bill Clinton as president.

KAGAN: For the last few days, Joseph Lieberman has been on a short list of people who were expected to perhaps be a choice for Al Gore to be running mate. And we have known for some time that tomorrow was the day that the vice president planned to make his announcement public and official out of his campaign headquarters in Nashville.

HEMMER: Lieberman making history on this ticket. The first Jew to ever be picked for and tapped for a major political ticket in America. And really, you have go back to 1960, and John F. Kennedy as a Roman Catholic. Of course, he was elected president on the Democratic side. But the last time we really saw religion being interjected into a campaign ticket.

KAGAN: It was 1960. And Bill, you and I were talking before the newscast today, interesting that in a way history repeats itself. Because in 1960, the Democrats held their convention in Los Angeles, as they will do again in the year 2000.

HEMMER: Interesting how things repeat each other. Senator Lieberman again elected to two terms out of the state of Connecticut, was running for reelection this year and will continue to do that, we would imagine.

KAGAN: Under Connecticut state rules you can do that.

HEMMER: The last time he was elected back in 1994, very popular, won overwhelmingly there by about 350,000 votes, which in Connecticut is quite a substantial margin of victory there.

KAGAN: Let's go ahead and listen in. We'll here what the senator from Connecticut has to say, perhaps give a hint of what's to come for his political future.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: Thank you. You know, a funny thing happened to me on the way to the state AFL-CIO convention today.

(APPLAUSE)

Doesn't Brother John have just an incredible knack at scheduling these meetings?

(LAUGHTER)

Dear friends, John Olsen, thank you for that warm introduction. Laurie Peletier (ph), Brian Petronelli (ph), Leo Cantee (ph), my colleague from Connecticut in the House of Representatives, Jim Maloney, my colleague -- let's get Jim back there.

(APPLAUSE)

We need Big Jim. You know, I made a little word mistake a couple of weeks ago at my convention. I said Big Jim not only has a big heart he has a big head.

(LAUGHTER)

I didn't mean -- I meant he had a lot of brains.

(LAUGHTER)

And he does.

Bennie Thompson, thank you for coming up from Mississippi. Distinguished member of the House, speaks to the values and hopes of all of America's people. God bless you and thanks for being here.

(APPLAUSE)

Susan and Nancy and everyone else who's here, you know, all I know honestly at this moment is what I've heard on the media.

(LAUGHTER)

The call hasn't come through yet. But, John, if the phone rings...

(LAUGHTER)

... I hope you'll interrupt me.

(LAUGHTER)

What a great country this is, isn't it? (APPLAUSE)

And how special and extraordinary it is. And how fitting it is to me. I said to Brian, I can't think of a place I'd rather be this morning at this momentous time in my life than with you, the working people of the state of Connecticut.

Thank you for making this day.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. Thank you so much.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

I hope you'll forgive me if I just get personal for a moment and digress from the normal remarks here. Because on this extraordinary day on which I feel to grateful to God and so many people who've been so helpful to me, I can't help but think about the steps along the way that got me here.

And I must say, from the moment of my birth, I was a very lucky person to have been born into a great family in Stamford, Connecticut.

My mom and dad were working people. They taught me to value and honor work throughout my life.

My dad came out of high school in New Haven during the depression, never had the chance to go to college. His first job was on a bakery truck. He'd get on it in the morning, he'd go to the bakery, he'd -- I'm sorry, the other way around. He'd get on it at night. He'd work all night in the bakery in Bridgeport. They'd bring him back delivering the goods around the area, then he'd sleep a few hours during the day, and then go back on. He worked his way from New Haven down to Stamford, where he'd work. Anybody remember the old Allentown (ph) factory there? He worked there in that factory.

And then when he met my mom, who lived in Stamford -- incidentally, my mom went to work at her first job when she was 12 years old, worked in a store in Stamford, Connecticut, and worked right on through. Never had the chance to go to college, herself either.

When he met my mom, two of her brothers-in-law had liquor stores. And they said they'd help him open a store in the Glenbrook (ph) section of Stamford. And -- but they wouldn't let him marry my mother until he was making $25 a week.

(APPLAUSE)

And my mom and my dad would tell me, when he started out, frankly, he had about enough money to buy a few cases of beer and a couple of cases of liquor, and when he sold those out he bought a few more.

When he finally made it to 25 bucks a week, my mom and he got married, and I was born in 1942. They were tremendously hard-working people.

Later in my life, sometimes even in campaigns or in sessions of the Senate when I've felt like we've been working real hard, I think back to my dad's labor, and the hours in the store, 9 to 9 or 11 at night lugging the cases, delivering. And I said, whatever he went through was so much more than what I'm being asked to do that I've got to do it as best I can.

I was just thinking about him lugging those cases. He probably could have used some good ergonomics protection, don't you think, John?

(LAUGHTER)

I don't know.

Worked hard to send my two sisters and me to college and graduate school, and gave us all the opportunities we've had, which is what the American dream is all about.

And boy, today, do I see the results of, and believe -- as deeply as I ever have -- in the truth and passion of the American dream of opportunity for everybody.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

And isn't that what the American labor movement has been about? Hasn't it been about giving workers a fair deal, protection from abuse which started out with the most egregious forms of child labor and unsafe labor that came along in our time, to equalizing the bargaining rights of workers and management so that the average person in this country could realize the American dream of equal opportunity and upward mobility?

And, believe me, it would not happen then and it will not happen today and tomorrow without a strong American labor movement such as you represent...

(APPLAUSE)

... in Connecticut, today.

(APPLAUSE)

And that's why I'm so proud to be with you on this special day in my life.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

I would not be here today, this momentous day, without the help of an extraordinary number of people. You know that old expression, when we have a chance to rise, we stand on the shoulders of those who've gone before us.

And I was thinking as I was riding up from New Haven today of all the people in the labor movement who have been with me at the critical moments of my career. When I started out -- and I know I'm going to forget somebody -- but I want to call a few names.

When I started out in 1970 running for the state senate, I not only had the young Yale law school student from Arkansas named Bill Clinton come in and volunteer to work for me, but Vinny Cirobella (ph), God rest his soul, at the...

(APPLAUSE)

... Restaurant and Hotel Workers, head of the New Haven state central labor council, great supporter.

Some wonderful people -- Nick Iella (ph). I bet Nick's here, from the clothing workers.

(APPLAUSE)

The colorful, faithful, steadfast Sonny Metz (ph) of the Operating Engineers. What memories he brings back.

(APPLAUSE)

I got to the state senate, and who was my mentor and inspiration when I started out? The late, great, long-time president of the Connecticut state AFL-CIO, John Driscoll (ph), of Bridgeport.

(APPLAUSE)

And who used to give me my best ideas for legislation: Madeleine Matchgo (ph) and Betty Tiazzi (ph), over a generation of work in the legislature.

(APPLAUSE) When I look back at the six years I was privileged to serve as majority leader of the state senate along side our dear friend and great governor, Ella Grasso, one of the proudest moments -- let's give Ella a hand because she's taught me so much.

(APPLAUSE)

I learned so much from Ella about government management, about helping to stimulate the economy to create jobs.

And I'll never forget that moment in 1975 -- and I saw Mike Ferruchi (ph) here, there are others who were with us, working for public employees -- it was the only time in my six years as majority leader that I moved to cut off debate, because the Republican senators were trying to filibuster until midnight when the session ended to block, finally, collective bargaining for public employees, but we didn't let them do it. And it passed. And the rest is a proud history.

(APPLAUSE)

And more to date, let me just thank your great leader and his team, John Olsen. Been really superb leaders of this movement, knows when to fold them and when to hold them, knows when to fight and knows when to deal.

And I just want to say, in a personal sense, in the last couple of months, as this dream beyond anything I ever dreamed, being on this national ticket, became a possible reality, in ways that some day I'll write in a book, but for now, I just want to say, thank you. John Olsen was a steadfast and value supporter and friend.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

Now, I shall return to my regularly scheduled programming.

(LAUGHTER)

That brings us to today. And I can't tell you how happy I am to be home, how happy I am to be here at a convention where working people are a priority, not as they were in Philadelphia last week, just props for someone else's misleading rhetoric.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

AUDIENCE: ... State of the Union here.

LIEBERMAN: Am I ready?

AUDIENCE: Yeah.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you. All right. (CROSSTALK)

The average working people of Connecticut are valued, of course not just in this hall today, but throughout our state, because, the truth is, you are the engine that has driven our remarkable economic recovery. It is your dedication, your sweat and your years of hard work and perseverance, your will and your skill, that helped make the current economic boom happen in our great state.

And I want to say to you today, as much as government has done -- federal, state and local -- to provide the ground on which the economy could grow, it is you and your families who are the real heroes in making Connecticut's comeback happen.

I thank you for that.

(APPLAUSE)

I started something last week which I'm going to continue here today, which is my way of saying that it's the regular folks who are the real unsung heroes of Connecticut and our country.

I'll tell you, I've had the great fortune to meet some amazing people during my public life. And I want people across Connecticut -- and now maybe I'll have the opportunity for people across America -- to learn and value the tremendous contributions these people I call heroes are making to our state and our country, to our shared aspirations for stronger families, better schools, healthier kids, a cleaner environment, safer streets and a brighter economic and moral future full of opportunities.

(CELL PHONE RINGING )

Is that the phone ringing?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

You are the people, the moms and dads who work hard to make a decent living and raise good kids, the teachers who dedicate their lives to our children...

(APPLAUSE)

... and the volunteers who revitalize our neighborhoods and safeguard our rivers and lakes and parks and forests, and the families, who struggle through the strains of life today to nurture one another and our shared dreams for a better future.

It is you who are meeting and beating the real challenges we face and helping to make Connecticut and America the place we want it to be. Last week, I named my first hero -- Joe's Hero of the Week. It was a great guy named Vinnie Atro (ph), in his 80s from New Haven, who spent well over 40 years with his family supporting youth sports leagues, giving kids not only the opportunity to compete, but giving them an opportunity to learn some lessons about values.

Today, I wanted to, while I was here, name my second Hero of the Week, and I'm so proud to say it's Lois O'Connor (ph)...

(APPLAUSE)

Now, you know the story, but let me just tell it. Laura (ph) is a former fiscal affairs office supervisor at Southern Connecticut State University, the former president of AFSCME, Local 478, and a...

(AUDIO GAP)

LIEBERMAN: Lois (ph) has been at the forefront of the decade- long struggle for pay equity for women workers in Connecticut, serving on the team evaluation and state master evaluation committees, lobbying lawmakers and fighting for her cause at the collective- bargaining table.

And you know what? While she was doing that, she still found time to serve as a board member of the United Way, and to co-chair their state employees campaign for eight years, and she found time to be a loving and devoted mother and grandmother to her 21 grandchildren.

(APPLAUSE)

Lois, this idea of the hero of the week is so new we don't exactly yet have the certificate or the medal.

(LAUGHTER)

But would you believe me if I said it will soon be in the mail?

(LAUGHTER)

What I really want to do today is to salute you, Lois O'Connor (ph), for the example you have set and for all you have done to lift up working women, and people generally, in the state of Connecticut.

God bless you.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, as I see my job in the Senate -- and if I'm lucky enough to get a promotion this year...

(LAUGHTER)

... my job is to help people like Lois O'Connor (ph) and all the working families in Connecticut as they pursue their dreams, to speak up for your values, to fight for your interests and support your goals.

I'm very proud of the things that we've been able to accomplish together over the last several years, working particularly under the strong, steady, progressive and humane leadership of President Bill Clinton and the great vice president and next president, Al Gore.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

I am so proud of what we've done together to help sustain the longest run of economic growth in American history, to create millions -- millions -- of new jobs, to balance the budget, to lower interest rates, to reduce crime, to move people from welfare to work, to keep the peace throughout the world, to save America's natural open spaces and historic treasures, and to lay the groundwork for an even brighter future in the years ahead.

That's my record here in the state, but more important, that is the Clinton-Gore record for America. And don't you agree with me, it is one smash record?

(APPLAUSE)

I am particularly proud to have worked with you over these last 12 years, fighting to preserve good paying jobs, better paying jobs around the state and around the country, fighting to raise the minimum wage and cut taxes for working people, not just the wealthy.

(APPLAUSE)

Fighting to target more education funding to schools that need it most, to re-build and modernize our crumbling classrooms, to provide every child with a qualified teacher and the promise of a quality education, and to pay those teachers the high salaries they deserve...

(APPLAUSE)

... providing them the best conditions we can.

(APPLAUSE)

Because, my friends, I know you agree with me, as I have told you a few moments ago, the story briefly of my upbringing -- great parents, hardworking, set an example -- but why did I get to go on? Because I just had the greatest education in the public schools of Stamford that I possibly could have gotten.

And I will say to you today that no one does more important work in America today than those who teach our children.

(APPLAUSE)

We have to and will support them.

(APPLAUSE) Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

And let me tell you, we've had some tough battles against the Republican majority in Congress the last several years, fighting to stop what is called regulatory reform, but really ends up being an effort to undercut the government's ability to protect the environment, to protect public health, to protect the consumer and to protect the safety of the working people of America.

(APPLAUSE)

I fought to make sure that didn't happen, and it hasn't happened.

(APPLAUSE)

I was proud to fight to stop the special interests from delaying those OSHA ergonomic standards. Those are critical. Most people don't know what ergonomics is. We're talking about work that causes people physical injury -- talk about fairness, talk about what this movement in America is all about.

And you think this is hypothetical? Last year, in the state of Connecticut, there were 32 deaths and 79,000 injuries related to ergonomic problems on the job. And that's why that OSHA regulation and standard must be promulgated in the public interest, not for the special interests.

We have fought to hold companies in contract with the federal government accountable for complying with our basic labor employment, environment, tax and consumer protection laws. Why should the government contract with people who are violating our laws and, therefore, our values?

We fought to protect the jobs of people here at home, state computer workers, from privatization by the state government.

(APPLAUSE)

Proud to stand with you in that battle.

I must tell you that I had the honor and opportunity to write a book and publish a book earlier this year called, "In Praise of Public Life," in which I called on people -- the rising generation to think about, full-time or part-time, spending some part of their lives in public service. And, you know, sometimes we limit our vision of public service to those who are in elected office or those who serve, and all of this is important on local boards. But who does the day- in, day-out work of public service? It's the people who have chosen to work for our federal, state and local governments. They deserve our respect, our honor and adequate compensation and protection for the job that they do.

(APPLAUSE)

I've been proud to stand with you in Washington fighting to protect the Davis-Bacon rules and laws.

And they're still as relevant as they were on the day they were adopted.

I'm proud to have worked with you here in the state of Connecticut to support and advance the Project Labor agreements that have meant fairness and civility for workers and management and municipalities alike.

(APPLAUSE)

Yes, my friends, we have made some real progress on these issues, but we've got a long way to go -- many challenges still to surmount, many opportunities still to seize.

And that's why this upcoming election is so very important. You know, as I do, that elections are about choice -- about choices that matter, choices that affect our families, our lives, our state, our communities, our hopes for a better America.

This election, particularly, I can tell you -- and you know it, I think -- will affect the rights, the interests and the opportunities of every worker in this state and across the United States of America. We have to decide what the choice is, which leader and which party is best able to build on the tremendous prosperity and progress that we have had in recent years, and fulfill our common vision of a stronger, healthier, fairer, more secure America, who can best move our country forward, not backward.

And we have to decide whose agenda is most focused on average working families in our country -- protecting patients' rights and improving health care quality, strengthening Medicare and providing a prescription drug benefit, saving Social Security, delivering on the promise of a good education for every child, safeguarding the water we drink, the air we breathe, the open space we want to enjoy -- which party, which agenda, is most focused on lifting up those families and those neighborhoods that have been left behind still in this phenomenal economic boom.

Ladies and gentlemen, sisters and brothers, to me, and I hope to you, this choice is an easy choice, this contest is no contest. The right choice is Al Gore and the Democratic Party in the year 2000.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you, thank you.

I know Al Gore well. I've known him for 15 years. And I can tell you that he is, without a doubt, a more qualified, more honorable, more intelligent, more progressive, more hard-working candidate for this high office.

We have somebody ready to assume the presidency and the awesome responsibilities that come with it. Al Gore has, after all, not only had a great record before the last eight years, but during the last eight years. Served as a full partner with the president in this administration, helping to shape this country's economic policy and growth, its social policy and advances, its foreign policy and strength, and has fought for working families, making the federal government work better for the American people.

Now, look on the other hand at the other party, look on the far right hand at the other party and what they have to offer.

I know that they sometimes say "read my lips," and maybe listening to that convention last week, it's because all they did was pay lip service to some genuine human needs across our country.

(APPLAUSE)

Beneath the -- what President Clinton, I think, has rightly called "the blur" of the Philadelphia convention, beneath that blur, this Republican ticket will take us back to the failed policies of the past: large deficits, recession, millions more unemployed.

How do I know that? Not just from what their platform says. And read the platform, instead of just the happy talk that came out of Philadelphia.

And I can tell you because Jim Maloney and Benny and all of us in this delegation have seen it in Congress. In Congress, Republicans have blocked a minimum-wage increase that millions of American workers deserve today.

(LAUGHTER)

They've worked to dismantle some of the legal protections that workers have to bargain collectively and protect their rights in this economy.

They have worked to stop the government, to tie up the hands of the regulators, who are on our side, on the people's side, to protect workers from injury and harm in the workplace.

And when they come to dealing with the problems of today, they give us a bill, a package called a patients' bill of rights. But honestly, when you take off the ribbons and look inside, there are a lot of wrongs there that are not righted by that Republican proposal. They have no prescription for helping seniors afford the medicines they need, no one that really will help people like my mom, and your mom and dad.

The bottom line, when the working people of America look for a helping hand from the other party and the other ticket, they too often will receive the back of their hand.

And look at what Governor Bush is proposing. Instead of saving Social Security, he's on a course to savage it with a privatization scheme that would take $1 trillion out of the nest egg that belongs to every worker in America, and jeopardize the program stability and the security of the working future of the American people.

That $1 trillion-plus tax cut, $1.8 trillion as I count it, that they're pushing, you know what it does? It gives a buck a day, at most, to the average person in America, and more than $50,000 a year to the wealthiest who don't need it.

(CROSSTALK)

I'm going to talk.

(APPLAUSE)

John just says: Give them hell, Harry.

(LAUGHTER)

I'm going to.

That tax cut, massive tax cut, would literally soak up the whole federal surplus before the black ink is even dry on the projections. It will strengthen the fiscal stability that the president and vice president and all of us have worked so hard over the last eight years to achieve. It will leave almost no money left for the future of Medicare, it will leave no more money left for a stronger modern defense, and it will leave no funding to hire new teachers or new cops on the street, or make the other smart investments we need to assure our economic future.

Ladies and gentlemen, if that is their idea of compassion, I'd hate to see their idea of contempt.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

So while the other party is trifling with our trillions, Al Gore has a plan to strengthen our prosperity, to strengthen our families and to move America ahead. He knows what it takes to make this economy grow. He knows how to stand up for the public interest and working families. And he knows there is nothing more important than fighting for what you believe in.

And I pledge you and promise you, my friends, that Al Gore, a man of character, in the White House will fight for you and what he believes in.

(APPLAUSE)

I am proud -- I have been proud -- to stand with Al Gore as a fellow senator for four years, to work with him in his extraordinary leadership as vice president over these eight years. And I will be proud to stand with him every day just as I am proud to stand with you, the true American heroes of American history and the American comeback we have enjoyed in our time.

Working for you, my friends, has been a labor of love. We are committed to the same values. We have the same aspirations and dreams. And together, with God's help and your help, as good as the last years have been, we will make the future even better for the working families of America.

Thank you. God bless you. God bless America.

KAGAN: We've been listening to Senator Joe Lieberman at an AFL- CIO event in Hartford, Connecticut. As the senator said, a funny thing happened to him on a way to this event, and that being he expects to be taped as the vice presidential running mate to Al Gore.

HEMMER: Although he has not received the phone call yet, appears he is already campaigning, launching a lot of barbs at Republicans and the convention last week in Philadelphia. We will be hearing more from Senator Lieberman throughout the day, and of course tomorrow in Nashville if things hold true.

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