Obama rallies Detroit union workers as fiscal cliff deadline looms
December 10th, 2012
03:44 PM ET
9 years ago

Obama rallies Detroit union workers as fiscal cliff deadline looms

Redford, Michigan (CNN) – President Obama's latest PR blitz pushing his position in the fiscal cliff showdown brought him to a Detroit-area motor plant Monday, where he pledged to a union-heavy crowd that he would not compromise on raising tax rates for high-income earners.

"I am not going to have a situation where the wealthiest among us, including folks like me, get to keep all our tax breaks," Obama said, adding, "when they start making a million, or 10 million, or 20 million, you can afford to pay a littler more. They are not too strapped."

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The 20-minute speech before a group of invite-only attendees appearing to number a few thousand was the most recent in a string of appearances by the president before key constituencies seeking to bolster support for his stance on raising tax rates for high wage earners in the new year.

But the Detroit area appearance – Obama's first trip to Michigan in more than eight months- carried separate significance for union supporters here who are facing the likelihood that Michigan's Republican governor will sign into law so-called "right to work" legislation this week. The law allows workers at unionized companies to not pay dues to their union - thereby severely cutting the funds that give unions their strength.

While version of "right to work" laws currently are on the books in 23 states, Michigan stands to be the most unionized state to pass such legislation. More than 17 percent of workers here belong to a union and the United Auto Workers union is a dominant political force. Proponents of the legislation argue such laws attract more businesses while opponents say the overall effect is to depress bargaining power and wages.

While Obama has said he opposes "right to work" legislation in the past, the president has long been tepid towards union-related issues, perhaps wary of turning off more business friendly supporters of the Democratic Party. But on Monday, he issued more forceful language on the issue to rousing applause.

"What we shouldn't do is take away your rights to bargain for better wages," he said. "These so called right to work laws don't have to do with economics, they have to do with politics."

Still, the thrust of the president's trip centered on the impending fiscal cliff deadline January 1, when, the president warned the crowd that "every body is going to see their income taxes go up" absent a deal.

In recent days, the president has made similar remarks before small business owners, middle class workers, and factory workers in Philadelphia – part of a White House strategy to harness the same groundswell of support that carried him to victory on Election Day, even as he engages in off-the-record meetings with House Speaker John Boehner – most recently at the White House Sunday afternoon.

As he has in the past, the president struck a more conciliatory tone Monday when it came to finding consensus on deficit reduction, though offered no details.

"I've said I will work with Republicans for economic growth, job creating, and reducing our deficits," he said. "I understand people have a lot of different views. I am willing to compromise a little bit."

While Republican leaders have criticized the president for adopting a campaign-like posture as the fiscal cliff deadline looms, White House officials insist the president's hand is strengthened dramatically by tapping into the more-than 60% of the electorate who, according to exit polling on Election Day, back tax hikes for households making more than $250,000.

Moreover, a string of recent polls suggest Republicans would bear the brunt of the blame should Washington fail to reach a compromise before the January 1 deadline – an advantage the White House believes is thanks in part to the president's public outreach efforts on the issue over the last month. This, the president has said, is more valuable than sitting down with Boehner before Republicans make further concessions.

"I don't think the issue right now has to do with sitting in a room," Obama told Bloomberg News last week.

Obama's Detroit appearance Monday was timed to coincide with Daimler's announcement that it plans to invest $100 million to expand production in the United States. The new investment will result in Daimler making all the key components of its heavy duty trucks in its Detroit-area facility going forward. Touting the announcement, Obama said the move will create "115 good union jobs."

"That is great for the plant, it's great for the community," Obama said. "But it's also good for American manufacturing."

Filed under: Michigan • President Obama
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Rick McDaniel

    He's just there to support the unions in their effort to keep the workers enslaved to the unions.

    December 10, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  2. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Republicans don't expect President Obama to make it hard for them in his 2nd term, Wrong. President Obama works for the American people unlike the GOP who work only for the rich and themselves.

    December 10, 2012 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  3. Rob

    Obama has to be loyal to his owners. Ot is commonly known that the unions own the Democratic party and Obama. Obama has no choiced but to voice support for the unions no matter how corrupt they are as they drain America of jobs since companies can't afford to deal with them and expect to stay in business.

    December 10, 2012 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  4. Ancient Texan

    "Don't worry Unions, I'll Have more money to give to you after we soak the rich for being successful." More stimulus on the way.

    December 10, 2012 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  5. DE

    Republikants want to keep workers enslaved to corporations.

    December 10, 2012 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  6. JohnnyAnonymous

    Bi-partisan non-sense finger pointing about made up facts...ENGAGE!

    December 10, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  7. Matt

    The GOP should call the bill the Right to enslave act. All these union busting bills do is cause the middleclass to slip into povererty a little bit more.

    December 10, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  8. DE

    Ronald Reagan on unions: “There are few finer examples of participatory democracy.” He said that the right to join a union is “one of the most elemental human rights.” He also said that collective bargaining “played a major role in America’s economic miracle.” Today's repugs have absolultely NOTHING in common with Reagan, a man they are always calling the perfect Republican but would be reviled by them if he was alive today. No wonder our economy is where it's at, Republican delusional policies. They don't have a clue on how to manage an economy. Here's something else for you repugs to chew on:
    Job creation since 1961:
    Republican presidents: 23.9 million
    Richard Nixon: Increase of 7.1 million jobs
    Gerald Ford: Increase of 1.3 million jobs
    Ronald Reagan: Increase of 14.7 million jobs
    George H.W. Bush: Increase of 1.5 million jobs
    George W. Bush: Decline of 646,000 jobs

    Democratic presidents: 42.3 million
    John F. Kennedy: Increase of 2.7 million jobs
    Lyndon B. Johnson: Increase of 9.5 million jobs
    Jimmy Carter: Increase of 9.0 million jobs
    Bill Clinton: Increase of 20.8 million jobs
    Barack Obama: Increase of 332,000 jobs

    December 10, 2012 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC

    Rick McDaniel

    He's just there to support the unions in their effort to keep the workers enslaved to the unions.
    At least the wages they get "enslaved to the unions" is a lot better than the wages they "enslaved to the corporations".

    December 10, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  10. independent

    Mr. President, In your discussion with the GOP about lowering corporate tax rates (which most of them don't pay anyway) please also negotiate and end to non-taxable overseas profits. If individuals pay tax on world-wide income, why not corporations? In addition, while you are looking at which individual deductions to cut, please look at existing corporate deductions. Tell me, why should corporate entertainment expenses generate a tax deduction? Most individuals can't afford a decent seat in a ball park and Congress gives tax deductions to corporations for deluxe corporate seating. There is a lot to cut in this area.
    One more: how about travel deductions limited to economy class seating. Let the individual pay for his/her on upgrade, not the U.S taxpayer.
    Thank you.

    December 10, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  11. betterdays

    At least when he's campaigning he's not "leading."

    December 10, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  12. Dan

    Our pres isliving proof no matter how much school you can still be stupid

    December 10, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  13. Dan

    I've worked in union and non-union companies. Some of the larger unions act just like big businesses and that is where they lose my support. Some unions are very important, particularly in industries that reward their managers and executives for cost savings of items like safety, training and staffing. Progressive, non-union companies run in cycles as to how they treat the employees. If they get good, compassionate managers who listen to experience and training, the results for the whole company increase. If, however they get a batch of high flyers who were good at passing tests in college, but have no sense of ethics, nor respect for experience, then the cycle of malcontent takes over, absenteeism increases, calls for unionization increase and results ultimately suffer.

    December 10, 2012 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  14. Larry in Houston

    as a former AFL-CIO union worker for 28 yrs – I'm surprised there's 23 states that have "right to work" Laws. I figured after Reagan fired those air traffic controllers – there would be waaay more states that went "right to work" – well, in my opinion, in another 15 years (or less) all 50 states will end up being "non union" – – – hate to be a bearer of bad tidings, but the unions were the best thing for this country back in the 1940's – 1950's – 1960's – 1970's & even mid 80's -they weren't corrupt back then – union dues didn't go to the union bosses – they protected you back then – If you were a union worker back in those days, if you happen to get the flu / was off for a day / or came in late ( one day a yr) because had a flat coming to work – I can go on & On, with Real Legit excuses) in those days, the company would fire you in a heart beat, and you would be out of a job, no excuses . When the unions came in, they protected people that had to go to the doctor, for some reason or another, and they still kept their Job(s) – Now days – the unions are worthless, ( I actually hate to admit this, but it's the truth) and if CNN refuses to print this, then, so be it)

    Here's the Deal – They are building & manufacturing Trucks here in Texas – ( Toyota) – – There is manufacturing Plants that are Building Various (different brand names) Automobiles & Trucks in Tennessee / Oklahoma / Alabama / Mississippi / Misouri & I probably missed some) but they are Paying the workers 16 bucks an hr, instead of 32 bucks an hr. The Jobs that are in those so called "Red States" (non-union) & "right to work" – – The workers are making 10 or 12 or 14 dollars an hr – (versus a Job that is about to end , making 20 or 24 or 28 dollars an hr) I doubt if CNN prints this, but it's the truth. I was a Union worker at one time, and I know what it was like.

    December 10, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  15. the_dude

    The only good thing about this is when he is out campaigning he is not doing any more damage to the country back at the white house.

    December 10, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  16. Willie Floyd

    The pres. is owned??–aren't you forgetting Norquist, Rove, Koch bros., etc.?? That's real ownership!!

    December 10, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  17. the_dude

    Much like the president, Detroit is a city of utter failure. People who are complete failures always look for a reason to blame their failure on....ie rich people.

    December 10, 2012 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  18. American

    Wah, wah, wah, poor unions in Michigan, welcome to the real world!!!!

    December 10, 2012 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  19. Dan

    @ willie, why do you you people always compare Barrack to people you despise, i just dont get it. does that mean you depise him also???

    December 10, 2012 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  20. bugbuster

    If the unions are corrupt, then laws should address corruption in the union. "Right to work" laws are aimed at starving unions to death, not making them better. People supporting "right to work" laws either don't know from history what life is like for workers without bargaining power, or they don't care. I suspect that they are simply parroting what they hear on AM talk radio. If AM would go back to Top 40, most of these people would fade away.

    December 10, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  21. not in WI

    Break the unions and fire the lawyers! Govern thyself and take care of your own. It's not that hard people.

    December 10, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  22. Rick in OP

    Under Obama the United States will become the basket case that Detroit is today. Dysfunctional government with a population that is totally dependent on government support. That is the Obama vision for America.

    December 10, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  23. Pendy

    @Willie – "Norquist, Rove Koch bros.,etc..." own Obama? I'm shocked! You forgot the real owners, George Soros, Warren Buffet, Barbra Striesand, Steve, Bing, Bill Gates, Fred Eychaner, etc.

    December 10, 2012 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  24. clakjak

    Our President likes to stand up with people like the UAW, who just forced Chrysler to put eleven workers back to work who were fired for smoking dope and drinking on the job. With a Korean dim-wit that trashed Americans. Now thats our commander in chief.

    December 10, 2012 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  25. Sniffit

    How you liking "gloves off" Obama, GOPers/Teatrolls? BWAHAHAHAHA!!!!

    Time for a good ole fashioned general strike. SHUT THEM ALL DOWN, UAW, SHUT THEM DOWN.

    December 10, 2012 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
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