WASHINGTON - "Republican House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is pushing a lawsuit against Obama to deflect attention from the fact that there is an enormous number of unmet needs in this country and his party has no agenda," said AFL-CIO Director of the Government Affairs Department Bill Samuel yesterday in an interview in between sessions of the federation's executive council.
"And even if they did have an agenda they wouldn't be able to pass it because of the deep fracture in their party caused by the extreme right tea partiers," he added.
Samuel said the agenda the labor federation backs is one that includes creation of good paying jobs rebuilding the nation's infrastructure, closing of tax loopholes for companies that export jobs, expanding of participatory democracy and the number of people who can vote, equal pay for equal work, comprehensive immigration reform and a number of other issues.
While Samuel said that a big priority for labor in the 2014 elections will be races on the state level and holding onto Democratic control of the Senate he said the labor movement has not given up on taking the House away from the Republicans. "That's why we have (Democratic Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) scheduled to speak here today," he said.
The reason the Council invited her to attend its session today was so she could discuss with its members her Middle Class Jump Start Agenda.
That agenda includes promises that upon retaking control of the House, Democrats will, in the first 100 days, introduce a 21st Century Make it in America Act to provide incentives for creating jobs in the U.S., measures for massive rebuilding of the nation's infrastructure, a bill for equal pay for equal work and another for strong financial assistance to struggling students.
As if to underline the urgency Samuel said the elections have for the ability to get pro-labor legislation, the GOP, only yesterday morning, killed by filibuster an important AFL-CIO- backed bill, the Bring the Jobs Home Act. The Senate measure would have extended tax credits to companies that bring outsourced jobs back to the United States.
Leo Gerard, president of the United Steel Workers, who was at the exec council meeting, blasted the GOP for killing the bill. "The tax code should be a tool to bring back jobs and put people to work, not a tool to encourage off shoring of jobs by big business."
Samuel said that the AFL-CIO also remains committed to "long overdue" labor law reform. "We know that with this Congress it's not going to happen," he said, "but that's all the more reason to turn out a big vote to remove from office lawmakers who won't allow this to happen."
He said that despite the failure to overhaul labor law, he was encouraged by the fact that "the National Labor Relations Board, under president Obama has been doing a better and better job of protecting workers."
He cited the recent decision by the NLRB's General Counsel that requires McDonalds to take responsibility for labor law violations committed by its franchises.
"But that is as it should be," Samuel said. "The NLRB, under U.S. Labor law is supposed to be there to protect the rights of workers, to protect and promote collective bargaining rights."
Photo: House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Md., joined by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., left, and Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, R-Mich., criticizes the efforts of Republicans to muscle legislation through the House authorizing an election-year lawsuit against President Barack Obama that accuses him of exceeding his powers in enforcing his health care law, July 30. J. Scott Applewhite/AP