Labor supports president’s vision but warns of challenges

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The labor movement is reacting positively to the vision of the future put forward by President Obama in his State of the Union speech, particularly his calls for job creation, strengthening of the middle class and rebuilding the nation's crumbling infrastructure.

"We strongly support the President's vision on infrastructure to create good jobs and succeed in a global economy, and working people are ready to work with him and hold him to his promises," declared Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the country's largest labor federation.

"The president and Congress must act now or millions of Americans could lose their jobs in the months ahead," said Gerald McEntee, President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "To this point, the president reminded the Democrats of their obligation to lead and served notice to Republicans that 'just say no' is not an option."

"We are thrilled to see President Obama embrace an argument we have been making for years," declared the Laborers' President Terry O'Sullivan. "Building America's roads, bridges, rails and runways is not only our best option for getting people working again, but also is essential to America's long-term future. If we do not address our ailing basics and outbuild other nations, we cannot compete economically."

Labor reaction to the President's emphasis on the need for a strong government role in fixing the economy was also positive.

"We agree that federal action is needed to keep our economy from slipping back into the ditch," said McEntee. "AFSCME will fight for investment in vital public services which must be part of federal jobs legislation."

"We firmly believe that we should not be cutting government spending when the economy is so weak," said Trumka. "The economy is failing to create jobs at an adequate pace to dig us out of the hole we're in, and a spending freeze at this time will slow down job creation and growth - further worsening the deficit.

There is already evidence that emphasis on investment, innovation and infrastructure are resonating with large numbers of voters.

Pollster Stan Greenburg found that after Obama delivered his speech, GOP-leaning swing voters were among those who gave Obama positive assessments on each of the three themes he emphasized.

Greenberg noted that voters were saying 'the future belongs to the people who make the what and the how." According to the Greenberg poll President Obama's overall job approval among GOP-leaning swing voters jumped by 26 points after his speech.

Politico said the speech was designed to pressure the GOP to cough up specifics on how it would deal with the economy. "It was laced with meaty proposals designed to smoke out the GOP - to force Republicans to reveal plans of their own. Obama threw down the gauntlet on several monster issues that are likely to be furiously fought, and have lobbyists licking their chops."

While the labor movement was positive about the speech, it intends to keep the pressure on both Congress and the president.

"We need to know how the broad vision President Obama outlined last night will become a concrete plan to strengthen the government's role in creating fairness in our economy," said Amy Dean, the well known labor writer and journalist.

While Trumka was strong in his praise for the president for "understanding our need to be competitive in manufacturing, new technology and skills," the labor leader also said that Obama "must also understand that last-century trade deals that reward and encourage corporations that outsource American jobs will do little to generate new jobs in the United States or raise living standards here or abroad."

Trumka said there is a need to "move boldly" to put 15 million Americans back to work and rebuild bargaining power and good jobs for our middle class. We believe the President is headed in the right direction," he said, "but as he outlined tonight, the yardstick must be the health of the middle class and the American economy."

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  • We seemed to have missed an important part of the President's presentation - the push for green jobs. There are battles going on right now for wind power. Labor has a stake in the outcome of those struggles as well as the environmental movement.

    Also, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not in the interest of workers anywhere. Yes, we have to support the Obama Administration, uniting around the attacks from the right. We can't abandon peoples' movements in the process.

    Posted by Len Yannielli, 01/27/2011 10:05pm (3 years ago)

  • Obama is a corporate hack. In his State of the Union Address, he was talking to his base -- Goldman Sachs, et al -- when he attempted to measure progress in terms of corporate profits and the stock market while failing to mention the well-being of the millions of workers in this country. It is notable that Trumka himself does not mention the working class, but rather, as indicated in this article, some mythical "middle class" which few people populate anymore. What this demonstrates is that we are involved in a one-sided class war in which the capitalists know who they are fighting, and what for, and those who purport to speak for workers know neither. This is why we are losing! Finally, it is very appropriate that the Republicans and Democrats sat together at this affair given that they both serve the same capitalist masters.

    Posted by Alberto C Ruiz, 01/27/2011 2:41pm (3 years ago)

  • I lost my job July, 2008 my benefits of unemployment ended a year later. I still don't have a job and it could be because I am 67 regardless we all have to eat and what Obama says is not nourishing.
    My home changed mortgage holders 3 times in 18 months and through escrow manipulations, my mortagage went up $96.00 a month when I refused to pay it they threatened to start eviction proceedings.
    I wrote to concerns asking for help under the promises that Obama made to lower our mortgages and not put us on the street. I was told I did not qualify because I owed to much on my home. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are criminal enterprises and everyone is scared to say anything because they are a government entity. The Mafia has nothing on our own federal government.
    All these people mouthing how good everything is becoming and the future looks rosy all have jobs. They can be shmoozed and paid to believe anything.
    Every town and city I have been in has vacancies, businesses are shut down and the unemployment picture is desolate.
    I don't know what channel these people are on but it is not on the American channel. I am not white or black so my concerns are not racially motivated one way or the other. I am ot a Democrat or Republican as I believe they are both organizations that feed on the poor and middle class. So I vote Independant even tho I am not one of them either. So whatever reason you can conjure up as to what I am that has me write what I have will be wrong. I am just an American who has listened to the politics of this country for over 60 years and have come to believe nothing changes except the rich get more and the poor are kept confused and believing in an opium dream to assist in their futility.

    Posted by R. Eagle Levy, 01/27/2011 1:02pm (3 years ago)

  • HMMM. People must have missed the part when he looks to continue the attack on the working women of the teachers' unions.

    Posted by Pat Crowley, 01/27/2011 8:29am (3 years ago)

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