How about more shout-outs to the labor movement from the White House?

Earlier this week, Vice President Joseph Biden told participants at an annual conference of the United Auto Workers that union members “are the only guys keeping the barbarians at the gate.” Here’s more, courtesy of David Shepardson of the Detroit News:

Vice President Joe Biden defended the role of organized labor, saying opponents are mounting a long-term war to attack unions.

“These guys on the right — they know without you there — they call every shot,” Biden told more than 1,000 UAW members and retirees on the final day [of] its four-day annual political conference here. “You guys are the only guys keeping the barbarians at the gate.”

I’m sure that members of the Obama Administration have offered similar remarks at other labor conferences, but this is one of their few full-throated endorsements of the labor movement to reach outside the union hall. Perhaps media coverage has something to do with that, but the bigger problem is the Administration itself.

It starts with the President. In 2007, candidate Obama told a gathering of labor activists that he would walk the picket line with them if collective bargaining rights were threatened. By contrast, President Obama’s public support for the labor movement has been much more muted. And he hasn’t been seen walking any picket lines, either.

I’ve said this before on this blog, but it bears repeating: Labor unions may run the gamut from super duper to pretty bad, but on the whole they are the best, most effective mechanisms for providing everyday working people with basic safeguards and decent wages at work and a strong voice in the houses of our legislatures. It is no coincidence that sharply rising income inequality and the decline of union membership levels have occurred together.

As many political and public affairs commentators have observed, the Administration’s policymaking options may be limited in view of an extremely polarized and dysfunctional Congress. Nevertheless, the Oval Office offers a powerful pulpit for raising public awareness and for building public support on issues of the day. I’d love to hear more endorsements of the labor movement from the Administration during its remaining three years.

One response

  1. The State of Michigan is notorious for not enforcing the laws they have on the books already. Governor Snyder in his State of the State Message called for getting more ‘Immigrants’ into the state to work. Ok, Michigan needs to get to work on the lack of enforcement of National Labor Laws, Cobra violations and generally ignoring the rights of individuals that happen to work in Michigan. I worked in that state and first hand witnessed chronic violations of National Labor Law. I got myself out of there to a more amenable state for business and good workplace. I would warn anyone strongly not to go there to work. The reasons they have many unions there is lack of enforcement of the laws protecting individuals allready on the books by the state, the reason they have Detroit, (and soon Kalamazoo) is a denial of the need for their local governmental approaches to running a township or municipality to step out of the 1950’s and get streamlined and efficient. Their ‘local rule’ approach is outdated, inefficient and expensive.

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