President Obama: Unions key to economic recovery

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DETROIT - The president of the United States, the nation's labor leaders and one of America's cultural icons teamed up here on Labor Day to boost the labor movement, which they said is crucial to any economic recovery.

President Obama, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka were joined by Detroit's own Aretha Franklin, who ended a four song set with her "Respect," fitting for the tens of thousands marching that day and demanding respect for the work they do, day-in and day-out.

Franklin, the "Queen of Soul," received a rousing ovation after her call for respect for "the man in the Oval Office."

The president, who came on stage to chants of "four more years," linked recovery and prosperity to the labor movement "I want everyone to know that as long as I am in the White House I am going to stand up for collective bargaining," Obama declared.

"When working families are doing well, when they're getting a decent wage and they're getting decent benefits, that means they're good customers for businesses. That means they can buy the cars that you build. That means you can buy the food from the farmers. That means you can buy from Silicon Valley. You are creating prosperity when you share in prosperity.

"When I hear some of these folks trying to take collective bargaining rights away, trying to pass so-called 'right to work' laws for private sector workers - that really mean the right to work for less and less and less - when I hear this talk I know it is not about economics but about politics."

Underlining the administration's intention to signal strong support for unions, Vice President Joe Biden, in a speech the same day in Cincinnati, said the union movement is in a fight for its life and that the "other side" is determined to take away its right to exist. Biden said unions are the only non-governmental group that has the power and capacity to stop the onslaught against the middle class. "The middle class in under attack because labor is under the most direct assault in generations. The other side has declared war on labor's house and it's about time we stand up."

Saundra Williams, chair of the Detroit rally and president of the Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO Labor Council, led the crowd in a "Good Jobs Now" chant. Michigan is suffering double digit unemployment and a new report, citing 235,000 state residents out of work six months or longer, added urgency to their cry.

United Auto Workers (UAW) union Secretary-Treasurer Dennis Williams put it bluntly: "We don't care about the debt ceiling, raise it. We have 13 million out of work. Put their asses back to work."

During his remarks President Obama said that next Thursday he will address the nation on jobs and, in a hint about the speech, said, "We've got roads and bridges across this country that need rebuilding."

U.S. Congressman Sander Levin blasted Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's contempt for the UAW and the jobs of autoworkers. In 2008, with GM and Chrysler facing bankruptcy, Levin reminded everyone of Romney's comments: "If auto companies get a bailout, you can kiss the auto industry goodbye."

President Obama was a singular voice standing by the industry and today, it is "roaring back," said Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

Teamsters International President James Hoffa said to the president, "This is your army, we are ready to march."

Michigan Congressman John Conyers said, "When we go back to Washington next week, our message to Congress and the president is, 'jobs now,' not just for Detroit but everyone in the nation."

Photo: John Rummel/PW

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  • The city of work, dance, soul and song, (as our iconic professor, W.E.B. Du Bois might say)that same city which welcomed freed Nelson Mandela, with again our"Queen of Soul", the inimitable Aretha Franklin singing to him, from Detroit, MI, would rock for a massive infrastructure federal program to create jobs, jobs, jobs, for millions and millions of unemployed and underemployed workers in this great land.
    Modernized transport of varied types, with fiber optics for transportation and communication enhancement and enviromental safety, with trade union wages, collective bargaining rights, and training, with civil rights protections, are the ticket.
    Detroit championed the first "I Have a Dream"of Jobs and Freedom speech by the incomparable M L K.
    It was at the second "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, our Capitol, in 1963, that one "Prince of Peace", W.E.B. Du Bois, as he took his last life's breath, was recognized for his work for anti-racism, anti-colonialism, anti-fascism, anti-imperialism, jobs equality, cultural and all human equality, an initiator of the Jobs and Freedom action. This action, the biggest, most peaceful, effective and unified to date.
    Let's roar back to Washington, with the president, Trumka, Hoffa, Solis, John Conyers and especially the millions and millions of unemployed, underemployed and immigrants with the Conyers's message, "...jobs now, not just for Detroit but everyone in the nation."

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 09/07/2011 11:23am (3 years ago)

  • Union works are mad at the wrong people. We are where we are now mostly due to failed policy of the left.

    Posted by Lee, 09/07/2011 11:01am (3 years ago)

  • Thia was the greatest Labor Day March I have ever been involved in. Thank you to every who attended this historic event. And a special thanks to the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO planning committee who made this day such a phenominal success. Every city across this grand land should be so blessed to have a Labor Day like the City of Detroit had yeaterday!

    Posted by Cementhead, 09/06/2011 9:39pm (3 years ago)

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