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Obama's 30-minute speech to AFL-CIO: Brief nods to job safety issue (8/6)

August 6, 2010
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This week President Obama gave a timely, much-watched speech on pumping new jobs into the faltering economy to the AFL-CIO’s Executive Council.

He spoke for 30 minutes on his plans for moving forward to create jobs, acknowledging that “we’ve got millions of our fellow Americans…hardworking people who’ve been left to sit idle for months and even years as their lives have been turned upside down.”

New jobs. Rewarding jobs. Secure jobs. Safe jobs? POTUS said nothing about it.

“But I’m here to tell you, we are not giving up and we are not giving in. We are going to keep fighting for an economy that works for everybody, not just for a privileged few. (Applause.) We want an economy that rewards, once again, people who work hard and fulfill their responsibilities, not just people who game the system. And that’s been at the heart of the economic plan that we put in place over the past year and a half.

To enjoy those rewards, workers must go home as safe and well as when they came to work in the morning. A missed opportunity for a safe workplace plug.

“And I want to thank the AFL-CIO for all you’ve done to fight for jobs, to fight for tax cuts for the middle class, to fight for reforms that will rein in the special interests, and to fight for policies that aren’t just going to rebuild this economy but are actually going to put us on a long-term path of sustainable growth that is good for all Americans.

No mention of proposed OSHA reforms and new OSHA policies that have laborites cheering and business group hunkering down for a fight.

Here’s where the President gets around to safe workplaces: “We’re going to have to cut taxes for middle-class families, and after a tough fight, we finally extended emergency unemployment assistance for folks who had lost their jobs. (Applause.) We passed the Fair Pay Act to help put a stop to pay discrimination. We’ve reversed the executive orders of the last administration that were designed to undermine organized labor. I’ve appointed folks who actually are fulfilling their responsibilities to make sure our workplaces are safe, whether in a mine or in an office, a factory or anyplace else. And we are going to keep on fighting to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. (Applause.)

The President’s close also touched on the issue of job safety: “So FDR I think said -- he was asked once what he thought about unions. He said, “If I was a worker in a factory and I wanted to improve my life, I would join a union.” (Applause.) Well, I tell you what. I think that’s true for workers generally. I think if I was a coalminer, I’d want a union representing me to make sure that I was safe and you did not have some of the tragedies that we’ve been seeing in the coal industry. If I was a teacher, I’d want a union to make sure that the teachers’ perspective was represented as we think about shaping an education system for our future.

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