Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day: Obama Praises Unions, Blasts GOP

President calls on Congress to "put country before party" and create jobs, during address to 13,000 workers at holiday picnic...
"This day belongs to you. You deserve a little R&R, a little barbecue -- little grilling -- because you’ve been working hard," President Obama told a huge crowd today at a Labor Day picnic and rally sponsored by the Detroit Labor Council at a General Motors plant in Detroit, Michigan. (Above: The President takes the stage)

Wearing no tie and no jacket, his shirtsleeves rolled up, the President was met with roaring cheers as he spoke about the "important role the labor unions have played" in establishing the “cornerstones of middle-class security.” The President used his time at the podium to demand that Republicans in Congress "put country before party" and join him after he rolls out a new proposal to create jobs, in a much-anticipated speech on Thursday. Today's speech came on the heels of Friday's federal jobs report that showed zero net jobs growth, and an unemployment rate stuck at 9.1%.

"We’re going to see if we’ve got some straight shooters in Congress," President Obama said. "We’re going to see if congressional Republicans will put country before party. We’ll give them a plan, and then we’ll say, do you want to create jobs?"

The President was accompanied by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, whom he hailed as "a proud daughter of the Teamsters," Democratic lawmakers, and national labor leaders that included AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry--who both recently went on the record to publicly blast the White House partnership with the non-union Walmart for First Lady Obama's Let's Move! campaign. Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. warmed up the crowd with anti-Tea Party rhetoric before the President took the stage, urging the crowd, estimated at 13,000, to "take these son-of-a-bitches out" in the next election.

The President, who relied heavily on organized labor to help him win his office in 2008, praised the role of unions in America, and vowed to "fully restore the middle class in America."

"America cannot have a strong, growing economy without a strong, growing middle class and without a strong labor movement," President Obama. "That’s the central challenge that we face in our country today. That’s at the core of why I ran for President. That’s what I’ve been fighting for since I’ve been President."

"Everything we’ve done, it’s been thinking about you," he said, and ticked off his accomplishments since taking office: Payroll tax cuts, the consumer protection agency, education reform, affordable health care. But now, all that's missing in his efforts to boost the middle class by creating more jobs is a willing Congress, the President told the crowd.

“We just need Congress to get on board,” President Obama said, to more cheers, and chants of "yes we can!" from the crowd. “Let’s get America back to work."

The President declined to give specifics about his upcoming jobs proposal, however.

"I want you all to tune in on Thursday," President Obama told the crowd, but added that “more than one million unemployed construction workers” are "ready to get dirty," and could be put to work with his plan.

"The time for Washington games is over. The time for action is now. No more manufactured crises. No more games," President Obama said as he ended his remarks.

Labor Day 2011, according to Obama for America, is a crucial moment in the 2012 campaign.

"Labor Day has added significance in the political calendar -- it's seen as the moment when the race for the Republican nomination will really heat up," OFA National Field Director Jeremy Bird wrote in an e-mail to supporters on Saturday, as he urged volunteers to join the campaign to re-elect Mr. Obama.

The President worked the rope line after his remarks, shaking hands and speaking with supporters. The full transcript of his remarks is here.

Soul legend Aretha Franklin performed ahead of the the President's remarks. He was also joined by UAW President Bob King; and Utility Workers President Mike Langford. Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow as well as the Michigan Congressional delegation were also on hand: John Dingell, John Bingham, John Conyers, Sandy Levin, Gary Peters, and Hansen Clark. (Above: Rep. Peters, left, Secretary Hilda Solis, center, and Trumka listen to the President's speech)

Anti-Tea Party rhetoric
Hoffa, during his warm-up remarks, declared that the GOP is running a "war on workers" and vowed that organized labor would "remember in November" which lawmakers oppose President Obama's agenda.

"We've got to keep an eye on the battle that we face -- a war on workers. And you see it everywhere. It is the Tea Party," Hoffa said. "And there's only one way to beat and win that war -- the one thing about working people is, we like a good fight."

"President Obama, this is your army, we are ready to march," Hoffa said. "But everybody here's got to vote. If we go back, and keep the eye on the prize, let's take these son-of-a-bitches out."

The White House declined comment on Hoffa's speech, despite the President's ongoing platform of decrying divisive partisanship.

President Obama spent the long holiday weekend Camp David, and left this morning to travel to Detroit. He was heading back to the White House by 2:30 PM today. On Sunday, he toured areas of New Jersey impacted by Hurricane Irene. (Above: A longshot of President Obama during his remarks)

*Photos: Top and second by Pete Souza/White House; third by Samantha Appleton/White House

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