Obama asks labor to help prevent GOP takeover


WASHINGTON - President Obama spent the morning of his birthday, Aug. 4, asking leaders of the labor movement to do everything they can to prevent a Republican takeover of Congress this November.

His speech to the AFL-CIO's executive council here underlined what both Obama and the labor movement believe is at stake in the 2010 elections.

Talking about Republicans, the president declared: "They want to go backward; we want to move America forward. That's the choice in this upcoming election. All your members need to understand that choice."

Obama said mass unemployment in America is unacceptable and the pain it causes "goes beyond just the financial pain. It goes to who you are as a person."

"It hits right in the gut," the president said. "Having a conversation with your spouse, and saying, you know, 'maybe we can't afford this house anymore, maybe we're going to have to give up on being able to save for our kid's college education.' That goes directly to people's identities, to their cores."

Frustration and anger have surfaced all over America as the result of a long, deep recession that has left at least 16 million unemployed. Republicans are trying to ride that anger and frustration into control of one or both houses of Congress in November.

Obama told the labor leaders that a return to Republican control would be a return to policies that created the economic disaster in the first place.

He described the GOP as "a driver that drove the car into the ditch and stood there for a year and a half, while we put on boots, got down into the mud, and heaved and hoed and pulled to get that car out. Just as we get it to the ledge, they come along and say, 'We want the keys back.' Uh uh, you can't have the keys back. We will not give them back!" Obama's story was cut off, first by laughter, then by prolonged applause.

Obama said, "With the help of workers and unions we are going to rebuild our country stronger than ever, and at the heart of it will be three simple words: made in America."

Part of the choice in the November elections, he said, is a choice between job creation in America or jobs going elsewhere. "Instead of giving tax breaks to corporations that want to ship our jobs overseas, we want to give tax breaks to companies that are investing right here in the U.S.A."

The president acknowledged that "we are a long way from solving all our problems" but insisted that "we are on the right track."

"Instead of losing millions of jobs," he said, "we have created jobs for six straight months in the private sector. Instead of an economy that is contracting, we've got an economy that is expanding. So the last thing we would want to do is go back to what we were doing before."

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka asked Obama what he had to say regarding the plight of millions who do have jobs but jobs that pay poverty wages and afford workers no voice at the workplace.

"Look, it's going to be tough with the Senate we have," Obama responded, "but we are going to keep fighting for the Employee Free Choice Act."  The president noted that he had worked to create conditions in the Labor Department and on the National Labor Relations Board that would, "at least make it more likely that workers can get fast fair elections when they want a union."

Obama recalled President Franklin D. Roosevelt's comment that if he were a factory worker, he'd join a union.

Obama said: "I think that's true for workers generally. If I were a miner, I'd want a union representing me to make sure that I was safe and that we wouldn't have some of the tragedies that we've been seeing in the coal industry. If I was a teacher, I'd want a union to make sure the teachers' perspective was expressed as we think about shaping an education system for our future."

Photo and video: AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, left, and Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker listen as President Obama addresses the labor federation's executive council, Aug. 4 in Washington. (whitehouse.gov)


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  • potus made promises he didn't keep. Free Choice is dead now, ripped apart educators, has no though of pulling out of the WTO which insists on few trade regs, international companies w/80% workforce overseas have the right to call selves "American"...now they go after social security and perpetuate the other big lie about "rising" health care costs while democrats sit idly by.

    Posted by hobb, 11/07/2010 1:14am (5 years ago)

  • I voted for President Obma in '08 because I felt we needed a "change'! I like many others have been disappointed with his actions (or lack of) on many issues. Issues such as the unwinnable, unjustified wars both in Afghanistan and Iraq. Issues like the Administration's refusal to push for a massive public works program such as was done in the 1930's through the WPA. Issues like his weak stances on the environment. His NOT pushing for the Employee Free Choice Act, his refusal to hold Bush and his cronies accountable for crimes against humanity and war crimes as per the Geneva Convention!

    In all honesty I have to ask; Should the GOP regain the Congress, what will be the difference? The Democrats cannot whine about not having a majority because they do. Yet no real, needed changes have occurred!


    Posted by Pancho Valdez, 08/11/2010 5:58pm (6 years ago)

  • I fear that he is tilting at windmills. As much as I don't want the Republicans to regain control of the Congress, I think that they will take one house--the House of Representatives.

    I think that the President will have to use the veto quite a bit.

    President Obama is correct that the Republicans ran the car into the ditch. Why would anyone want to have them back in power?

    Posted by Ronald Humphrey, 08/10/2010 5:59am (6 years ago)

  • Unions don't create jobs.

    Posted by anon, 08/08/2010 5:42pm (6 years ago)

  • Our president has to be nailed on a number of labor issues,along with his Democratic Party.
    This is not to make us look revolutionary,but to make the working people survive,we may not with:

    1. 287g

    2. war escalation,flirting with nuclear conflagration in afganistan region

    3. his backwards "race to the top" education program for the poor,working class teachers and working class youth

    4. his backwards salvaging of what he can in the horrendous 1070 law in AZ

    5. his silence on backwards NAFTA,in large part the reason for the disaster of 1070 and immigration problems in general

    These are serious problems for all people in the U. S. and we elected a president and administration to help us with these,and its not enough to say the Senate is tough,or the rich are tough,or we are not organized enough.
    We need a president who would bring a winning plan to labor,if executed.
    If labor has to bring a winning plan to the president,then labor ought to be president(we like this better anyway).
    We should support the president. This means we should help lead him out of quagmires,not that we should let him lead us into the same.
    We want to unify with him,but we cannot with his acquiescence to war,racism and imperialism-these proven quagmires.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 08/06/2010 11:44am (6 years ago)

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