At a press conference in midtown to announce the endorsement of the Transportation Workers Union for his presidential campaign, Edwards told reporters that he would be labor’s greatest champion.
TWU president James Little said that the more than 200,000 national active and retired members of the union–including about 36,000 in the New York local, led by Roger Toussaint of MTA-strike fame–were endorsing Edwards because he would not “triangulate” and would be a clear voice for labor.
During a short question-and-answer period after the announcement in the Broadway headquarters, a Daily News reporter asked the seemingly straightforward question of whether TWU members and other public workers should be sanctioned if they strike. The champion of labor dodged the question.
<p”Well, here’s what I believe,” Edwards began.
He said the law should be changed in America to make it easier for workers to organize. He said the collective bargaining process should be strengthened. He said he had walked on 200 picket lines in the last two years.
“Those are the things that I would focus on,” he said.
But, the reporter insisted, should public workers be allowed to strike without fear of sanctions? “I stand by my answer,” said Edwards.
He took another question. It was the same one, this time from a New York Post reporter.
“I’ll stand by my answer,” he said.
Later, Edwards was asked to contrast his approach to change in Washington to that of Hillary Clinton, who has said she would work within the system to reform it.
“We fundamentally disagree about this,” he said. “Democratic voters will have a choice in this election. Senator Clinton is entitled to her view–I’m entitled to mine. My view is if working with, compromising, sitting at the table with insurance companies, drug companies and their lobbyists would be successful, we’d have universal health care today. We don’t have it today. And the reason we don’t have it is it doesn’t work. You have to take these people on.”
He continued. “I don’t think you can negotiate or triangulate or work this out and compromise your way through it. If that had worked it would have already worked. And it hasn’t.”