Saunders Fights for the Common Man

Barrington M. Salmon | 10/31/2012, 1:50 p.m.

Saunders, who grew up in a union household where his father was a bus driver and his mom a professor at a local community college and community activist, said unions have to do a better job educating the public about the gains the entire society has made because of unions.

"Labor built the middle class," he said. "[Unions are responsible for] issues ... such as social security, Medicare, Medicaid, the 40-hour work week."

Saunders said union members were intimately involved with the Democratic National Convention with a number of union members serving as delegates. He said he believes in unions and also believes they have an important place in society.

"The president supports unions, supports the 99 percent and the 99 percent are suffering," he said.

Saunders said the Romney plan will set Americans back in a number of ways. For example, he wants to make the Medicare program a coupon program; gut Medicaid; and not raise taxes.

"It's unbelievable to me that they think that prescription would work," he said. "They don't get it. Romney said 47 percent would never support him - said they were bums - vets, seniors. This country is in a state. That's why we have to fight so hard."

Saunders said he planned to be actively campaigning in swing states until Nov. 6. He said he expected 80,000 union activists and staff to work tirelessly to re-elect Obama.

"We'll be leafleting, making phone calls, knocking on doors, talking to people who may not be union members," he said. "We'll never be able to compete with Romney and the Koch brothers. Members and non-members going door-to-door is huge. It will prove to be the turning point and will put the president back in office."

Saunders, a married father of two, said his 34 years in the union dovetails into his desire for public service.

"Based on my upbringing, I knew I wanted to do something to help people, be an advocate," he said. "I work to make lives better. I conducted research and collective bargaining at AFSCME. I traveled a lot. I enjoyed what I was doing. I have a high level of commitment and I am dedicated to being a fighter ... [the union offers] ... a better life and [is helping build] the middle class."

"I'm a fighter willing to think out of the box."

And until Obama can declare victory, Saunders said he'll be on the move.

"I'm on the road almost every weekend," he said. "It's important not to sit here in my office. I have to be where the members are. I have to walk shoulder-to-shoulder. We're going into battle. I work hard but I enjoy what I'm doing. It benefits not just the union but working families too."