AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called on President Barack Obama to “step up to the plate” on jobs, saying that union members want signals that the administration will help them.
“Will he commit all his energy to offering bold solutions, or will he continue to work with the Tea Party?” Trumka, head of the largest U.S. labor union organization, said today in Washington at a breakfast with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
Trumka said he urged Obama during a recent meeting to “propose what is necessary” in a speech on job creation next month, and “not what is possible.”
“If he falls into nibbling around the edges, history will judge him, and working people will judge him,” he said.
Obama is planning to speak on the economy after the Sept. 5 U.S. Labor Day holiday. In conjunction with actions to shrink the nation’s long-term deficit, Obama is considering steps to give a quick boost to employment, including an expanded infrastructure spending program, tax incentives for hiring workers, a cut in the payroll tax paid by employers and worker retraining programs.
U.S. unemployment was 9.1 percent in July amid signs of sluggish growth and economists have raised their unemployment forecasts for next year.
Trumka in June told Bloomberg News that Obama faces waning enthusiasm from union members as he prepares for his 2012 re- election bid. The labor-Obama rift widened this month after a dozen unions said they plan to boycott next year’s Democratic national political convention.
Trumka said today the AFL-CIO is considering its role in the convention and a decision will be tied to Obama’s job- creation proposals. “We want to see if he is going to step up to the plate,” he said.
Trumka meets regularly with Obama to discuss labor’s agenda, and serves on a White House advisory board on economic recovery and jobs. Trumka dismissed the notion that labor is a major influence the president’s policy from his role on the board. “That’s a business panel,” he said.
--With assistance from Stephanie Armour in Washington. Editors: Judy Pasternak, Steve Geimann
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