Monday, September 7, 2009

Obama and Labor

Here is a cream puff piece on our President and labor, via the Associated Press.

Obama thanks labor for hard-won rights at work

By DARLENE SUPERVILLE, Associated Press Writer

CINCINNATI – President Barack Obama declared Monday that modern benefits like paid leave, minimum wage and Social Security "all bear the union label," as he appealed to organized labor to help him win the health care fight in Congress.

"It was labor that helped build the largest middle class in history. So, even if you're not a union member, every American owes something to America's labor movement," said Obama, whose run for the presidency was energized in no small part by unions.

Obama asserted that "our recovery plan is working," but repeated that he won't be satisfied until jobs are much more plentiful.

Shortly after taking the oath, Obama confronted a rapidly deteriorating economy, a clogged credit system, failing or ailing banks and a a shaky stock market. He used his speech here to tick off a host of steps the administration has taken to steady the economy, and he made a special pitch for the health care overhaul he has pushed.

"We have never been this close," Obama said. "We have never had this broad an agreement on what needs to be done." He accused vested interests of trying to thwart it. Some union-circulated posters held up by audience members proclaimed, "Health Care Can't Wait."

For their part, some elements within the labor movement have indicated frustration with Obama, who traveled to Cincinnati to speak to a state AFL-CIO gathering, because some key items such as legislation making it easier for people to join unions has languished in Congress. To vigorous cheers, Obama made a pitch for the bill in his speech. He also noted that the first bill he signed into law was one guaranteeing equal pay for equal work.

Obama spent a good deal of his time extolling the virtues of the union movement.

"We remember that the rights and benefits we enjoy today were not simply handed out to America's working men and women. They had to be won," he said.

"They had to be fought for, by men and women of courage and conviction, from the factory floors of the Industrial Revolution to the shopping aisles of today's superstores. They stood up and spoke out to demand a fair shake, an honest day's pay for an honest day's work," he said. "Many risked their lives. Some gave their lives. Some made it a cause of their lives — like Sen. Ted Kennedy, who we remember today."

At one point before Obama spoke, some in the crowd broke into chants of "Fired up" and "Ready to Go."

Obama closed with a story about how that phrase became one of his campaign slogans, and appealed to the assembled union rank and file to for help. "Your voice can change the world. Your voice can get health care passed. Your voice will make sure the American worker is protected. You can build America. I need your help," Obama said as the audience broke into more chants.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis accompanied Obama to Ohio, and the pair appeared in front of a large American flag, nine smaller ones and red, white and blue bunting. Local union organizers handed out 10,000 tickets for access to the area where Obama was to speak. The event was moved indoors to a music pavilion because of threatened thunderstorms.

Obama chose the Labor Day union picnic as the backdrop to announce his selection of Ron Bloom as senior counselor for manufacturing policy.

Bloom was senior adviser to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner as part of the auto industry task force since February. Bloom, a Harvard Business School graduate, previously advised the United Steelworkers union and worked as an investment banker.

Bloom will work with the National Economic Council to lead policy development and planning for Obama's work to revitalize U.S. manufacturing, the White House said.

President Obama, if you cared so much about unions, why are you not more vigorously supporting the Employee Free Choice Act? It is the Democrats in the Senate holding up that legislation, the same prostitutes for industry who are killing your health care plan. In fact, you have yet to lobby a single member of the Senate on behalf of the legislation. Have you no backbone with the traitorous elements in your own camp? Why is it that Republicans never have to compromise, indeed, they can go down to defeat on principle, but we are supposed to constantly compromise our values and beliefs for you? Why do we have to be held hostage to corporate-sponsored hacks like Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu?

Readers, remember the whole NAFTA/GATT debate during the presidential primaries when then-Senator Obama claimed that we needed to renegotiate those trade agreements to take into account labor and environmental standards? We are on month eight and not a single finger has been lifted. Our jobs continue to be taken, our car companies the government took over forced by this administration to lay off most of its workers (under the guise of 'reform'), all the while Mr. Geithner's and Summers' executive friends at Citibank and Bear Sterns give themselves hefty pay raises at our expense.

And is it too much to ask for you to support a striker replacement bill, which makes it illegal for employers to fire their striking workers? We are the only (post)industrialized nation that continues to do this (the last holdouts being apartheid South Africa and fascist Spain under General Franco). Bill Clinton campaigned on it back in 1992 and chose to spend the first year of his administration, instead, lobbying Congress to pass NAFTA. Are you going to allow the EFCA to be your striker replacement bill?

I suppose I should not be too critical. I long anticipated Obama's views on unions and free trade, but to see the way he has refused to do anything, other than give platitudes and speeches, on the EFCA and unions in general, I wonder how long our labor unions in this country will continue to allow itself to be treated this way?

The campaign is over, Mr. President. I do not care about what you say. Those of us who work and suffer for this economic system only care about results. If you cannot produce anything for us, it is time to look elsewhere.

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