Friday, November 21, 2008

Your president wants you to join a union?

Obama on unionization and EFCA:

"It's time we had a president who didn't choke when he said the word union,"
Obama said at the CTW convention in Chicago on September 25, 2007. "It's not that hard. Union. Union. Nothing happens when you say it--other than give people some inspiration and some sense that maybe they've got a fighting chance...

"That's why I was one of the leaders fighting to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. That's why I'm fighting for it in the Senate, and that's why I will sign that bill when I become president of the United States of America."

"I've walked picket lines before," Obama added. "I've got some comfortable shoes at home. If it's hot outside, then I've got a hat. If it's cold outside, I've got a jacket. But if you are being denied your rights, I don't care whether I'm in the United States Senate, or in the White House, I will make sure I am marching with you on the picket lines, because that's what I believe in--making sure that workers have rights."

In response to a question about EFCA from a worker, Obama replied, "I won't just wait for the bill to reach my desk. I will work actively as part of my agenda to make sure that it reaches my desk...

"Everybody talks a lot about unions when they're trying to get the union endorsements. And then the general election comes, and then there's not much mention of unions. And then you win the presidency, and then you just stop talking about unions at all.

"And as a consequence, you've got a lot of people all across America who could use a union, but they're never hearing about it, they're never encouraged to join, they're never given a sense that being part of a union--that's as American as apple pie.

"That's the reason we've got the minimum wage. That's the reason we've got the 40-hour workweek. That's the reason we've got overtime. That's the reason workers are treated fairly and safely on the job. Our children have to hear that. Everybody's got to hear it.

"And that's what the president can do is use the bully pulpit: 'Join the union--there's nothing wrong with it.' That's number one, because that sets the context for the debate in Washington."

It will be interesting to see if he follows through on all of this. Working class voters swung to Obama in droves and labor enthusiastically backed him. If the Democrats cannot pass the EFCA in its current form (which is already somewhat compromised), then they will have betrayed all of the support they receieved from labor and workers this election.

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