Elizabeth Warren, the senior Senator from Massachusetts, launched her campaign for President in Lawrence, a small mill town which was the site 100 years ago, textile workers, led mainly by women, went on strike to demand fair wages, overtime pay and the right to join a union. She laid out a platform built on rebuilding the middle class, strengthening democracy, equal justice under law.
Here are highlights from her speech:
A little over 100 years ago, the textile mills in Lawrence
employed tens of thousands of people, including immigrants from more than 50
Business was booming. The guys at the top were doing great. But workers made so little money that families were forced to crowd together in dangerous tenements and live on beans and scraps of bread. Inside the mills, working conditions were horrible. Children were forced to operate dangerous equipment. Workers lost hands, arms, and legs in the gears of machines.
One out of every three adult mill workers died by the time they were 25.
But one day, textile workers in Lawrence – led by women – went on strike to demand fair wages, overtime pay, and the right to join a union.
It was a hard fight. They didn’t have much. Not even a common language. But they stuck together.
And they won. Those workers did more than improve their own lives. They changed America. Within weeks, more than a quarter of a million textile workers throughout New England got raises. Within months, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to pass a minimum wage law.
And today, there are no children working in factories. We have a national minimum wage. And worker safety laws. Workers get paid overtime, and we have a forty-hour work week.
The story of Lawrence is a story about how real change happens in America. It’s a story about power – our power – when we fight together.
Today, millions and millions of American families are also struggling to survive in a system that has been rigged by the wealthy and the well-connected.
And just like the women of Lawrence, we are ready to say enough is enough.
We are ready to
take on a fight that will shape our lives, our children’s lives, and our
grandchildren’s lives: The fight to build an America that works for everyone….
Over the years, America’s middle class had been deliberately
hollowed out. And families of color had been systematically discriminated
against and denied their chance to build some security.
The richest and most powerful people in America were rich, really rich – but they wanted to be even richer – regardless of who got hurt.
So, every year, bit by bit, they lobbied Washington and paid off politicians to tilt the system just a little more in their direction. And year by year, bit by bit, more of the wealth and opportunity went to the people at the very top.
That’s how, today, in the richest country in the history of the world, tens of millions of people are struggling just to get by.
This disaster has touched every community in America. And for communities of color that have stared down structural racism for generations, the disaster has hit even harder.
We can’t be blind to the fact that the rules in our country have been rigged against people for a long time – women, LGBTQ Americans, African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, immigrants, people with disabilities – and we need to call it out.
When government works only for the wealthy and well-connected, that is corruption – plain and simple. It’s time to fight back and change the rules….
Enough is enough, enough is enough.
[Enough is enough. Enough is Enough, the crowd responds.]
They will say it is “Class warfare” – they’ve been waging class warfare against middle class for decades. It’s time to fight back.
To protect their economic advantage, the wealthy and well-connected have rigged our political systems as well. They have bought off, bullied politicians in both parties to make sure Washington is always on their side, some even try to buy into office..The economy is working great for oil companies, government contractors, private prisons, great for Wall Street banks and hedgefunds, but not anyone else.
Because of Climate Change, our existence is at stake, but Washington refuses to lift a finger without permission from fossil fuel companies. That is dangerous and wrong.
It isn’t just climate change – any other major issue in America – gun violence, student loan debt, crushing cost of health care, mistreatment of veterans, broken criminal justice system, an immigration system that lacks commonsense and under this administration, lacks a conscience. Overwhelming majorities want action – huge crowds march on Washington demanding change, there are letters, phone calls, protests – but nothing happens.
Why? Because if you don’t have money and y9ou don’t have connections, Washington doesn’t want to hear from you.
When government works, only for wealthy and well connected that is corruption plain and simple, and we need to call it out.
Corruption is a cancer on our democracy, and we will get rid of it only with strong medicine, with real structural reform.
Our fight is to change the rules, so that our government, our economy, our democracy work for everyone.
I want to be crystal clear about exactly what I mean:
First we need to change the rules to clean up Washington, end the corruption.
We all know trump administration is most corrupt in living memory – but even after Trump is gone, it won’t do just to do a better job of running a broken system. We need to take power in Washington away from the wealthy and well connected and put it back in hands of people where it belongs.
That is why proposed strongest, most comprehensive anti corruption laws since Watergate.
Examples: shut down the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington; end lobbying as we know it; ban foreign governments from hiring lobbyists in Washington, and make justices of US Supreme Court follow a basic code of ethics.
Ban members of Congress from trading stocks. How is that not already illegal?
And just one more: make every single candidate for federal office put their taxes on line – I’ve done it.
2: Change the rules to put more economic power in the hands of the American people. Workers and small businesses, middle class families and people of color have been shut out of their chance to build wealth for generations. That requires real structural change. Right now, giant corporations in America have too much power, just roll right over everyone else. Put power back in hands of workers. Make it quick and easy to join a union. Unions built America’s middle class and will rebuild America’s middle class.
Make American companies accountable for their action; raise wages by putting workers into corporate board rooms where real decisions made; break up monopolies when choke off competition; take on Wall Street banks so big banks can never again threaten security of our economy. And when giant corporations and their leaders cheat customers, stomp out competitors and rob workers, let’s prosecute them.
One more thing: I am tired of hearing that we can’t afford to make real, real investments in child care, college and Medicare for All. I am tired of hearing we can’t afford to make investments in things that create economic opportunities for families, investments in housing and opioid treatment, that we can’t afford to address things like rural neglect or the legacy of racial discrimination, I am tired of hearing what we can’t afford because it’s just not true.
We are the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. Of course we can afford these investments. But we need a government that makes different choices- choices that reflect our values – stop handing out enormous tax giveaways to rich people and giant corporations. Stop refusing to invest in our children. Stop stalling on spending money, real money, on infrastructure and clean energy and a Green New Deal.
Start asking the people who have gained the most from our country to pay their fair share. And that includes real tax reform in this country, reforms that close loopholes and giveaways to people at the top and an ultra millionaires’ tax to make sure that rich people do their part for the country that made them rich.
3: Change the rules to strengthen our democracy.
That starts with a constitutional amendment to protect the right of every American citizen vote and have that vote counted.
And that’s just the beginning.
Overturn every single voter suppression rule that racist politicians use to steal votes from people of color.
Outlaw partisan gerrymandering – by Democrats or Republicans.
Overturn Citizens United, our democracy is not for sale.
It’s not just elections. Real democracy requires equal justice under law. It’s not equal justice when kids with ounce of pot gets thrown in jail, while bank executive who launders money for drug cartel gets a bonus. We need reform.
It’s not equal justice when for the exact same crime, African Americans are more likely than whites to be arrested, charged, convicted, and sentenced. Yes we need criminal justice reform and we need it now.
We must not allow those with power to weaponize hatred and bigotry to divide us. More than 50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr went to Montgomery and warned us of danger of division, how bigotry and race bating used to divide blacks from white Americans so rich people can keep picking all their pockets – that playbook around forever, whether straight against gay, middle class against poor – same – rich and powerful use fear to divide us. We’re done with that. Bigotry has no place in the Oval Office.
This is who we are – we come from different backgrounds, religions, languages, experiences. We have different dreams. We are passionate about different issues, and we feel the urgency of this moment in different ways, but today, today we come together ready to raise our voices together until this fight is won.
Our movement won’t be divided by our differences, it will be united by the values we share. We all want a country where everyone, not just the wealthy, everyone can take care of their families; where every American, not just the ones who hire armies of lobbyists, lawyers, can participate in democracy, a country where every child can dream big and reach for real opportunity and we are in the fight to build an America that works for everyone.
I get it – this won’t be easy – a lot of people with money, power, armies of lobbyists and lawyers, people who are prepared to spend more money than you and I could ever dream of to stop us from making these solutions a reality – people who will say, extreme or radical to demand an America where every American has economic security and every kid has opportunity to succeed.
I say, get ready, because change is coming faster than you think.
[Change is coming, change is coming, the crowd roars.]
This kind of fundamental change will be hard – a lot of people, including some of our friends, will say it’s so hard, it’s not worth trying. But we will not give up. When I was home with my first baby, I had the notion to go to law school. It was a crazy idea, but I persisted. It took some time but eventually I figured out admissions, applications, how to pay tuition, mapped out the 45 minute commute to campus. Weeks out, there was just one more thing: child care.
My daughter Amelia was nearly 2 years old. I looked for childcare but everywhere, I struck out over and over. So down to the weekend before law school would start, I finally found small place with cheerful teacher, play area, nothing smelled funny, I could afford it. But the place would only take children who were dependably potty trained. I looked over at Amelia – 5 days to dependably potty train and almost 2 year old. I stand before you today courtesy of 3 bags of M&Ms and a cooperative toddler.
Since that day – never let anyone tell me that anything is too hard.
How they have tried.
People said it would be too hard to build an agency that would stop big banks from cheating Americans on mortgages, credit cards. We got organized. To date, big banks have paid $12 billion to those they cheated.
When Republicans tried to sabotage the agency, I came back to
Massachusetts and then ran against one of them. No woman had ever won a Senate
seat in Massachusetts, and people said it would be “too hard” for me to get
elected. But we got organized, we fought back, we persisted, and now I am the
senior Senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
So, no, I am not afraid of a fight. Not even a hard fight.
When the women of the Everett Mill walked out from their machines and out into that cold January air all those years ago, they knew it wouldn’t be easy, but they knew what was at stake for themselves and their families, and they weren’t going to tell anyone it was too hard – doubters told abolitionists, the suffragettes, the foot soldiers of civil rights movement, it’s just too hard, but they all, all kept going and they changed the history of America.
Sure, there will be plenty of doubters and cowards and armchair
critics this time around. But we learned a long time ago that you don’t get
what you don’t fight for. We are in this
fight for our lives, for our children, for our planet, for our futures – and we
will not turn back.
So here is the promise I make to you today: I will fight my heart out so that every kid in America can have the same opportunity I had – a fighting chance to build something real.
And here’s a big piece of how we’ll get it done: We’ll end the
unwritten rule of politics that says anyone who wants to run for office has to
start by sucking up to rich donors on Wall Street and powerful insiders in
I’m not taking a dime of PAC money in this campaign or a single check from a federal lobbyist. I’m not taking applications from billionaires who want to run a Super PAC on my behalf. And I challenge every other candidate who asks for your vote in this primary to say exactly the same thing.
We’re going to keep building this campaign at the grassroots.