In an Oval Office interview with major newspapers yesterday, President Barack Obama reaffirmed his strong support for the freedom to form unions and bargain.
The Detroit Free Press and the Philadelphia Inquirer were among the papers that got a chance to talk to Obama about the challenges facing our economy, and Obama once again offered his support for the Employee Free Choice Act.
According to the Inquirer, Obama discounted the corporate community’s argument that workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain would be bad for the economy. The president said that, indeed, workers’ freedom to bargain was good for the long-term health of the economy.
I don’t buy the argument that providing workers with collective bargaining rights somehow weakens the economy or worsens the business environment. If you’ve got workers who have decent pay and benefits, they’re also customers for business.
The Inquirer also reports that Obama does not want to delay passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. This echoes a Jan. 30 statement by Vice President Joe Biden, who heads the White House’s task force on working families. Biden told CNBC the administration hopes Congress passes the Employee Free Choice Act this year. Both Obama and Biden were co-sponsors of the legislation in the Senate.
In his announcement of the task force Jan. 30, Obama made it clear he sees unions as essential to a strong economy.
We need to level the playing field for workers and the unions that represent their interests, because we know that you cannot have a strong middle class without a strong labor movement. When workers are prospering, they buy products that make businesses prosper.
The Employee Free Choice Act is critical to the nation’s economic recovery, a point made by numerous analysts including former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. Speaking in Florida yesterday, Reich said the bill would open the door for workers to bargain for health care, pensions and fair wages, restoring their economic security and reversing the wage stagnation that has contributed to a weak economy.
Obama and experts agree: Quick passage of the Employee Free Choice Act will improve the economy for working families.