President Obama became the darling of the unions and labor industry. His election as president gave those sectors great hopes of job creation and help for the middle class. But with over two-and-a-half years into his term, Obama is facing a frustrated constituency; and if things don’t change, a large segment of his voting block could stay home during the 2012 election.
After the 2008 election, Democrats controlled the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives. The president had the perfect formula to push through initiatives to help labor. The prospect of job creation initiatives emboldened labor unions to work hard for Democrats. Instead, the president introduced health care reform. His reforms didn’t go far enough and they were upset his plan left out a government-run option. That was the tip of the iceberg.
Obama extended the Bush tax credits that benefited the wealthy, thus increasing the deficit. He campaigned on raising the minimum wage but so far nothing is happening on that front. Trade agreements, unions say, will cost more jobs. Now for the first time during his administration, the president will focus on jobs. Larry Haney, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union said, “Obama campaigned big, but he’s governing small.”
With labor unions under attack all across the country, money is staying local. National fundraising for politicians dropped 40 percent over the last year. The money goes towards fighting for union initiatives in states. Some trade unions will boycott the national convention in Charlotte, NC because of the economy and the state the convention is held in. North Carolina is a right-to-work state.
So what are the unions looking for? They want the president to present a jobs plan to dramatically kick-start the economy. They want building projects, such as infrastructure jobs, to get their members working again. Moreover, they want the president to show some leadership. Even if the House rejects his plan, they want him, and big business, to step up to the plate. James Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters said, “We’ve got to turn this around and say, `Hey, we are an American company. We owe an obligation to America. Let’s put America back to work.”
Obama, during a speech on Labor Day, said, “We’ve got a lot more work to do to recover fully from this recession. I’m going to propose ways to put America back to work that both parties can agree to because I still believe both parties can work together to solve our problems.”
In the end, if the economy doesn’t get back on track and jobs are not created, the president is in danger of losing a large section of his voting bloc.
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