Working Americans won a major victory last week, heralding a new era for our country. They voted for the leaders that would have an impact on the issues that matter most for their future. For far too long, working Americans have suffered from stagnant wages, rising health care costs and an increased cost of living. Armed with a restored confidence in the democratic process, workers can now look to the future with hope. The 110th Congress now has the historic opportunity to make a positive change in the lives of the millions who voted them into power.

Change is already on the way. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, in line to be the next Speaker of the House, has set forth a plan for the first “100 hours.

Among the top priorities for working Americans in the wake of the election include:

Health Care
Now is the time to make universal health care a reality. As health care and pharmaceutical companies reap astronomical profits, hardworking Americans struggle to cover the rising costs of health care premiums. Premiums have risen by an average of 7.7 percent in the last year and in double digits for the last decade. Despite rising costs, benefits are being reduced, while co-pays and deductibles are increasing. Close to 16 percent of Americans do not have any health insurance. Eighty percent of the nearly 47 million uninsured Americans are from working families. We need quality, affordable health care for all Americans. Now is the time.

Freedom to Form a Union
Congress must protect worker rights through passing the
Employee Free Choice Act. This act would allow for the formation of a union based upon majority support via card check. Current law allows for drawn out election processes, which favor management by providing companies ample time to conduct aggressive anti-union campaigns. This act would increase penalties imposed on management for violating workers’ rights to form their union. The Employee Free Choice Act would allow workers to act freely in the interest of good wages, decent benefits and job security, so that they can have the dignity that all hardworking American families deserve. We are currently three co-sponsors away from a majority in the House, and have 42 co-sponsors in the Senate.

Fair Trade Policies
The new Congress must negotiate fair trade agreements, not so-called free trade pacts pushed by the Bush administration. We have learned our lessons from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which resulted in the loss of more than 1 million jobs. Our trade policies, overall, have resulted in the loss of more than 3 million manufacturing jobs in the last five years.

So-called free trade agreements only serve to hurt our workers, our livelihoods and our national security. Opening our country to cross-border trucking, another priority on the Bush agenda, would put Americans at further risk. What our government should be doing is working on strengthening our national security and providing greater protections to workers here at home.

In the coming years we look forward to a productive Congress that will work together not only on these issues, but on all issues that impact working Americans. There is a lot of work to be done. Now is the time for our leaders to work to reverse the last six years of the Bush administration’s failed policies, and work towards change—the change that Americans voted for, with hope and promise, at the polls.