President Obama previewed his proposals for job creation and reviving the economy to thousands of supportive union members in Detroit on Labor Day.
The speech at a rally sponsored by the Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO came just days before Obama’s Thursday evening address before a joint session of Congress where he plans to oultine specific proposals to spur job creation and resuscitate the economy.Obama tested a few of the ideas before Monday’s crowd of supporters, including putting 1.1 million unemployed construction workers back to work rebuilding the nation’s roads and bridges and promising to extend the middle-class payroll tax cut.
The job creation ideas would be proposals both parties can support, although he said he’s not going to wait for Congress to act first.
“Given the hardship that many people are facing — folks got to get together,” he said. “But we aren’t going to wait for them…The time for Washington gamesmanship is over. The time for action is now. No more manufactured crises and no more games. Now is not the time for the people you sent to Washington to worry about their jobs; now is the time for them to worry about your jobs.”
Obama also pledged to protect union workers from assaults on their collective bargaining rights, referring to disputes in Wisconsin and Ohio in which Republicans governors have blamed labor unions for breaking state government budgets by demanding better benefits over the years.
“As long as I’m in the White House, I’m going to stand up for collective bargaining,” he said.
The President refuted union critics who have argued that unions have outlived their time.
He called the union movement “the bedrock this country is built on: Hard work, responsibility, sacrifice, looking out for one another, giving everybody a shot, everybody a chance to share in America’s prosperity. From the factory floor to the boardroom, that’s what unions are all about.”
“America cannot have a strong growing economy without a strong growing middle class and without a strong labor movement,” he said.
As Obama took the stage erected in a parking lot outside of GM’s headquarters, the enthusiastic crowd cheered and shouted “four more years.” The audience, comprised largely of auto workers, was particularly receptive to Obama’s remarks about the resurgence of the U.S. auto industry two years after he supported billion-dollar federal bailouts from GM and Chrysler.
“We said American auto workers can once again build the best cars in the world…we stood by the auto industry,” he said. “Now the big three are turning a profit and building the best cars in the world…I know it, I’ve seen it.”
Detroit, he said, is a city that had been “to heck and back,” but has learn to thrive because of its people and their determined spirit.
“You ask somebody here if times are tough, they’ll say, ‘Yeah, it’s tough, but we’re tougher,'” he said.