In 2004, Doris “Granny D” Haddock challenged the mainstream political machine by running for the US Senate. Her message was clear, support working families and keep the money out of politics.
In 1999, Granny D walked 3,200 miles across the United States pushing for campaign refinance reforms.
Since her epic walk across the country many organizations including the NH Rebellion, Public Citizen, the Stamp Stampede, and labor groups across the country have taken up the torch to continue her work to reform our campaign finance laws. After the devastating effects of the Citizens United ruling, even more groups have joined the fight to get the money out of politics.
Below is a speech from Granny D to labor groups in September of 2004. Granny D passed away in 2010, yet her efforts to reform our campaign finance laws will live for many years to come.
With John Sweeny present, Granny D tells it like it is
Thank you very much.
I do not come today seeking an endorsement from you as a group, but to speak with you as individual citizens of New Hampshire, and to ask each of you for your personal endorsement and your vote.
I have a few things to say about the issues that are important to labor, but I would like to first make a more general statement.
We are not a self-governing people, a free people, if we are only that in the few hours we have at home between jobs.
To be a self-governing people, a free people, requires that we have the habits, tools and benefits of democracy with us all day long.
That has been the whole point of the American labor movement.
That is an important fact to keep in mind, as corporations make their play for more and more control over our lives. We live by their credit cards and credit reports and job performance evaluations and by their ever-more stingy benefits. We live in fear of their power to send our jobs overseas or to, in a thousand other ways, decide that we are expendable. We are not. They get us as employees, and they get us as consumers: They steal our time by understaffing their phones and stores so that, not only do we not have those jobs in our communities, we search the stores ourselves as unpaid clerks, we wait endlessly for telephone help, we learn to do their back-office keypunching by entering all the information ourselves on their websites or at their automatic teller machines or at their do-it-yourself checkout counters. The human beings are no longer across the counter or on the phone with us. The missing salary, no longer in the pocket of our neighbors and friends, is in the pocket of a faceless CEO, who in some instances makes $50,000 for every hundred dollars his remaining employees make. It is a national scandal, for which there seems to be no shame.
That is the small stuff. The big stuff is that they conspire in some countries to kill the union organizers. In this country they lock in the employees until they allow them to leave. This is a kind of corporate Stalinism that is on the rise, and unionism is one way to stop it.
And here is the bigger problem, yet: These runaway corporations, once our servants, now buy our elected representative out from under us, and what is left is no Democracy.
Yes, I know the unions go shopping for Congressmen, too. But the Congressman who promises to serve the needs of working people as a condition of political support is a fundamentally different thing than a politician who promises to work against the needs of his or her constituents for the sake of political donations.
In any case, I walked long and worked hard to help pass the McCain-Feingold bill, which is imperfect to say the least, and which may upset you because it prevents unions from spending union treasury money for the direct support of federal candidates–it may please you to know that I cut my own throat in this, as I can’t take a dime from you. But the new law also prevents corporations from doing the same, and they were outspending you, eight dollars to your one.
The fact is, there are better ways to run and win elections, and that is by taking no special interest dollars from any interest group, so that the people finally have the choice of voting for someone with no strings attached, who will represent them.
Now, if this catches on someday, you will have to shop carefully for your candidates, because you will have less leverage over them, even when they come from your own ranks, which they will increasingly do. Candidates will just come to you for your votes, as I do today, and not for your money or your organizational help or endorsement. They will tell you their opinions, and you will decide to vote for them or not.
So here are my opinions, so that you may decide.
As corporate power increases and corporations become worlds unto themselves, controlling too much of too many lives, employee rights must increase to balance this power. The larger the company, the more democratic it must legally become, or we shall have a planet of fiefdoms worthy of the Dark Ages. Workers must have expanded freedom to choose a union. Workers must have the right to democratically decide upon solidarity, if they so choose by majority vote. The so-called “right to work” laws interfere with the workers’ ability to democratically decide to stand together in solidarity or not.
Further, the right to organize must be insulated from management pressure. There is a bill in Congress, The Employee Free Choice Act, Senate Bill 1925, that provides this, and I would vote for it and actively work for its passage.
As is true in nearly every state, New Hampshire is struggling to pay for its schools. The argument is over the necessity of an income tax as a way to take the upward pressure off the property tax. It may be best for us, as New Hampshire taxpayers, to pay for the teachers and the books so we can keep some local control, but I see no reason why we can’t put a lot of people to work rebuilding and even maintaining our schools and some other public buildings, and our roadways and bridges, with federal money. I am told that every billion federal dollars spent for real improvements like schools generates 47,000 jobs. Think what we could do with the billions wasted by the Bush Administration on his billionaire tax cut and his foreign misadventures!
What else can you get from me without giving me a dime? I’ll vote to raise the minimum wage, keep our jobs at home, end or seriously rework WTO, NAFTA and other agreements that are more exploitation than opportunity. International trade agreements, by the way, should be negotiated by representatives of the the world’s workers and human rights representatives, not by the bankers. These damaging international institutions must, before another generation passes, be seen as the old way, the colonial way, that the advance of human civilization has overtaken.
As to the 40-hour work week and overtime pay, we cannot have a democracy if people do not have the time or energy for it. We cannot remain a free people if we are trying to hold down two or three jobs. It is a national security issue, a homeland security issue, if you value your democracy.
One more issue: The idea of Social Security privatization rests upon the idea that some seniors will be able to find a higher return if they make their own investment decisions. The idea therefore has the inescapable balancing assumption that we are willing to see some other seniors receiving less than what they need to live on. The underlying lie of the privatization argument is that the government does not invest the money well, and we can do better ourselves. The truth is that the proceeds of the system are not invested, they are spent by our so-called representatives in Congress for billionaire tax cuts and tragic misadventures. If the Social Security money were held in trust and invested, it would have returns far beyond what the average investor could expect. The problem isn’t bad investment by government bureaucrats; the problem is grand larceny by the bunch in the House and Senate.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you. Let me say one more thing about unionism. The union movement could have developed as one race against another. It did not—the races came together in the unions. The union movement could have been a war between men and women, but you stand together now and protect each other’s interests. The union movement could have been long-time citizen against immigrant or undocumented worker. Remarkably, you stand together and look only at the fact that a human being is a human being, and deserves the right to make a living without exploitation.
There are many things about our nation that make us proud. Yes, all our progress has had its dark moments and dark sides, and we forget none of that. But we move forward, don’t we? We move toward a shared dream of a society that is as great as its people, don’t we?
The unions took our ideals and dreams of democracy and moved them into the working hours of our days, onto the shop floors and into the great mills. And we did this through ten million acts of courage, and each of those acts was a step toward justice, fairness, freedom and the right to turn the pursuit of happiness from a well-turned phrase on parchment to the reality of American life. That life–and the very survival of the middle class–is under siege now, and I know it.
And now you know that I know it, and that we would have a lot to talk about after I get elected. But if you want to talk to me before I get to Washington, get on your walking shoes, because that’s how we’re getting to D.C. And after I set up office there, you’d better come see me yourselves when you need to, because your lobbyists aren’t getting past the “No Lobbyists” sign on my door. So you’ll have to do this democracy yourself, as I am doing.
Thank you for having me here today.
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