WASHINGTON (PAI) – For the first time in his six years in the Oval Office, President Barack Obama took to prime-time TV and a nationwide audience to demand stronger labor law for workers’ rights. But his State of the Union address demand fell flat.
“We need laws that strengthen rather than weaken unions and give American workers a voice,” Obama declared in his Jan. 20 speech. The demand was part of his broad program to restore prosperity to the middle class, which has seen its wages stay flat for 30 years. Obama backed worker rights and labor law reform before, but only before union crowds and friendly audiences. He did not push for it, even when Democrats ran Congress.
Obama drew some applause from the crowd, dominated by the GOP majority in the new 114th Congress, but a check of many reaction statements from both pro-worker lawmakers and national union leaders – admittedly, pre-written before his speech – showed only Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., the Laborers, and School Administrators President Diann Woodard were nimble enough to praise his demand for labor law reform, too.
“We applaud the president’s State of the Union remarks calling on lawmakers to address income equality, particularly by speaking out for laws that strengthen unions and give workers a voice,” said Laborers President Terrence O’Sullivan.
AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka said “President Obama eloquently and forcefully advocated for working families throughout his State of the Union Address this evening. The President’s focus on raising wages through collective bargaining, better paying jobs, a fairer tax code, fair overtime rules, and expanded access to education and earned leave sent the right message at the right time,” Trumka continued. “So did his embrace of union apprentices and immigrants who want to achieve the American Dream.”