HUGHESTOWN, Pa. – Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards (search) on Wednesday accused the Bush administration of leading the nation from "the edge of greatness to the edge of the cliff."
Joining men who lost their jobs because of a recent factory closing, the North Carolina senator said the United States needs a president who "fights for your job as hard as he fights for his own job."
Responding to cheers from several hundred people who attended a rally in a public park in nearby Kingston, Edwards promised that he and presidential candidate John Kerry (search) would spread the nation's wealth among more of its citizens.
The senator joined three former employees of the Techneglas factory on a backyard deck in a swing region of Pennsylvania, the nation's fifth largest electoral prize. The area of northeastern Pennsylvania, anchored by Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, is socially conservative but often votes Democratic.
The three were among 670 employees laid off after the TV-glass manufacturer announced a month ago that it was closing its plant in nearby Pittston and two in Ohio because of overseas competition and declining customer demand.
"We're all living the American dream ... and one morning the phone rings and it's the company saying they're going to cease operations," said Stephen Duda, the local union president and a 14-year Techneglas employee.
As the men summarized their experiences, Edwards used them as examples why new leadership is needed in Washington.
"Most people don't realize how much more a job is than a paycheck," Edwards said. "It's about your self-respect."
Edwards said Kerry would eliminate tax cuts for businesses that take jobs overseas, enforce the nation's trade agreements and provide incentives to create jobs in communities where plants have closed. He also lashed out at Republicans, who are at their national nominating convention in New York this week.
At the backyard meeting and at a rally later in Kingston, Edwards criticized the Bush administration for policies that he said ignored the needs of middle and lower income Americans and for allowing the war in Iraq to become "a mess" in which a growing number of American soldiers continue to die.
Edwards said Bush had failed to provide the leadership he promised when elected four years ago.
"They led us from the edge of greatness to the edge of a cliff. We're going to have to lead them right out of town," he said.
Techneglas, a unit of Nippon Electric Glass in Japan, announced Wednesday it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. At the company's peak in 1997, it employed 3,400 people.
Pennsylvania is considered an important state in the election because of its 21 electoral votes and because it was so close in 2000, when Al Gore defeated Bush 51 percent to 46 percent.