May 4, 2007 Volume 108 Number 9

UFCW Local 555 shop stewards hear from Dick Gephardt

No, he isn’t running for president again, but former Democratic presidential hopeful Dick Gephardt made a stop in Portland April 26 to speak at the annual Steward Summit of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555.

Gephardt, a former U.S. House Majority Leader out of Missouri, left Congress after an unsuccessful bid for president in 2004, where he received several labor endorsements — including UFCW’s.

He now works in the private sector running his own consulting firm. He’s a senior counsel for the international law firm of DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary LLP, and an adviser for the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs.

But he still has his hands in politics. Gephardt told the Northwest Labor Press that he’s been working with the United Auto Workers and the Big Three automakers on a health insurance reform package that would move anyone 55 years of age or older into Medicare.

“I’ve got the union on board,” he said. “And the industry is close. We should have something to announce next month (in May).”

Speaking to about 180 shop stewards, Gephardt said he also is working with lawmakers on a bill that would extend Medicare to all citizens 55 and older. He said there is debate over how to fund it, but he’s hopeful that will soon be worked out and the bill will be introduced.

“This issue (health care) is the moral issue of our time,” he said. “You’ve got to treat everyone fairly.”

Gephardt said organized labor is a major part of the fabric that makes America what it is. “It is the labor movement that created the middle class in this country,” he said. “If unions keep declining, there will be no middle class.”

Gephardt supports the Employee Free Choice Act that is now in the Senate. The bill would allow for card-check recognition in union organizing campaigns.

“Right now it’s not a level playing field. If it was, unions would win a lot more elections,” he said.

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