News Column

Obama Seeks Help on Fiscal Cliff From Labor Unions

Dec. 10, 2012
Obama campaigning in 2012
Obama campaigning in 2012

President Obama made a campaign-like appearance Monday in Michigan to discuss on-going "fiscal cliff" negotiations and legislation that has roiled worker unions in Michigan, a hub of the labour movement in the United States.

Obama spoke at the Daimler Detroit Diesel Truck plant, where he announced a 120-million-dollar investment by the German automaker in the facility, which produces diesel engines for heavy-duty vehicles. The investment will create 115 new jobs building transmissions and turbochargers.

Obama arrived in Michigan from Washington, where slow-moving talks on the fiscal cliff remain at the top of the agenda. Speaking to employees of the plant, Obama said his economic strategy was the most beneficial plan for the middle class.

The president said his efforts were aimed at bringing down the federal budget deficit in a "balanced, responsible way."

Obama has consistently pushed higher tax rates on the highest earners as a way to reduce the deficit. Republicans, who control the US House of Representatives, have opposed higher tax rates, and talks on avoiding the across-the-board income tax increases and budget cuts taking effect in January have mostly stalled.

"I want a tax code that rewards businesses and manufacturers like Detroit Diesel right here, creating jobs right here in Redford, right here in Michigan, right here in the United States of America," Obama said.

The investment in the plant will mean more products stamped "Made in America," he said. For seven decades, workers at the plant have done their part in US manufacturing, he said, "and now you're writing a new, proud chapter to that history."

The plant started building axles alongside the engines eight years ago. With the new investment, it will add transmissions.

The expansion will make the Daimler plant the first heavy-duty vehicle manufacturer in North America to offer a fully integrated power train from one production facility, the company said.

It means Daimler engineers will be able to design each part to work more effectively with the rest. The result will be greater fuel efficiency and lower total cost of ownership for customers, according to Daimler.

Obama addressed a political firestorm that has been brewing this month in Michigan over the state legislature's pending vote on "right-to-work" legislation. The proposal would apply to the 17.5 per cent of Michigan workers who hold jobs at unionized companies, giving them the right to work in those companies without joining the union or being forced to pay dues. Only police officers and firefighters would be exempt.

Obama criticized the attempt to change the law in the state, where the United Auto Worker's union was founded during the 1930s. The legislation under consideration in Michigan would be a blow to all unions represented in the state, he said.

Right-to-work laws "don't have to do with economics - they have to do with politics," Obama said. "What they are really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money."

Republicans say that unions, which overwhelming favour Obama's left-leaning Democrats with campaign contributions and election volunteers, should not be allowed to hold a legal cartel over the workplace.

The Republican governor has pledged to sign right-to-work legislation if it passes.

Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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