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Obama Labor Day Speech (Video and Transcript)

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Posted on Sep 5, 2011
White House / Pete Souza

(Page 2)

We said that every family in America should have affordable, accessible health care.  (Applause.)  We said you shouldn’t be discriminated against because you’ve got a preexisting condition. We said young adults without insurance should be able to stay on their parents’ plans.  We got that done—for you.  (Applause.)

And here’s what else we said, Detroit.  We said that American autoworkers could once again build the best cars in the world.  (Applause.)  So we stood by the auto industry.  And we made some tough choices that were necessary to make it succeed.  And now, the Big Three are turning a profit and hiring new workers, and building the best cars in the world right here in Detroit, right here in the Midwest, right here in the United States of America.  (Applause.)

I know it.  I’ve seen it.  I’ve been to GM’s Hamtramck plant.  (Applause.)  I’ve been to Chrysler’s Jefferson North Plant.  (Applause.)  I’ve seen Detroit prove the cynics and the naysayers wrong.

We didn’t just stop there.  We said American workers could manufacture the best products in the world.  So we invested in high-tech manufacturing and we invested in clean energy.  And right now, there’s an advanced battery industry taking root here in Michigan that barely existed before.  (Applause.)  Half of the workers at one plant in Detroit were unemployed before a new battery company came to town.  And we’re growing our exports so that more of the world buys products that are stamped with three simple words:  “Made in America.”  (Applause.)

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So that’s what we’re fighting for, Michigan.  We’re fighting for good jobs with good wages.  We’re fighting for health care when you get sick.  We’re fighting for a secure retirement even if you’re not rich.  We’re fighting for the chance to give our kids a better life than we had.  That’s what we’re doing to restore middle-class security and rebuild this economy the American way—based on balance and fairness and the same set of rules for everybody from Wall Street to Main Street.  (Applause.) An economy where hard work pays off and gaming the system doesn’t pay off, and everybody has got a shot at the American Dream.  That’s what we’re fighting for.  (Applause.)

On Thursday, we’re going to lay out a new way forward on jobs to grow the economy and put more Americans back to work right now.  I don’t want to give everything away right here, because I want you all to tune in on Thursday—(applause)—but I’ll give you just a little bit.  (Applause.)

We’ve got roads and bridges across this country that need rebuilding.  We’ve got private companies with the equipment and the manpower to do the building.  We’ve got more than 1 million unemployed construction workers ready to get dirty right now.  There is work to be done and there are workers ready to do it.  Labor is on board.  Business is on board.  We just need Congress to get on board.  Let’s put America back to work.  (Applause.)

Last year, we worked together, Republicans and Democrats, to pass a payroll tax cut.  And because of that, this year the average family has an extra $1,000 in their pocket because of it.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you!

THE PRESIDENT:  But that’s going to expire in a few months if we don’t come together to extend it.  And I think putting money back in the pockets of working families is the best way to get demand rising, because that then means business is hiring, and that means the government—that means that the economy is growing.  (Applause.)

So I’m going to propose ways to put America back to work that both parties can agree to, because I still believe both parties can work together to solve our problems.  And given the urgency of this moment, given the hardship that many people are facing, folks have got to get together.

But we’re not going to wait for them.  (Applause.)  We’re going to see if we’ve got some straight shooters in Congress.  We’re going to see if congressional Republicans will put country before party.  (Applause.)  We’ll give them a plan, and then we’ll say, do you want to create jobs?  Then put our construction workers back to work rebuilding America.  (Applause.)  Do you want to help our companies succeed?  Open up new markets for them to sell their products.  You want—you say you’re the party of tax cuts?  Well then, prove you’ll fight just as hard for tax cuts for middle-class families as you do for oil companies and the most affluent Americans.  (Applause.)  Show us what you got.  (Applause.)

The time for Washington games is over.  (Applause.)  The time for action is now.  No more manufactured crises.  No more games.  Now is not the time for the people you sent to Washington to worry about their jobs; now is the time for them to worry about your jobs.  (Applause.)

Now, let me say a word about labor in particular.  Now, I know this is not going to be an easy time.  I know it’s not easy when there’s some folks who have their sights trained on you.  After all that unions have done to build and protect the middle class, you’ve got people trying to claim that you’re responsible for the problems middle-class folks are facing.

AUDIENCE:  Booo—

THE PRESIDENT:  You’ve got Republicans saying you’re the ones exploiting working families.  Imagine that.

Now, the fact is, our economy is stronger when workers are getting paid good wages and good benefits.  (Applause.)  Our economy is stronger when we’ve got broad-based growth and broad-based prosperity.  That’s what unions have always been about—shared prosperity.


New and Improved Comments

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By berniem, September 8, 2011 at 12:48 pm Link to this comment

“We The People” no longer control our(?) government because we’ve allowed the SYSTEM to be privatized. FREE BRADLEY MANNING!!!!

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prisnersdilema's avatar

By prisnersdilema, September 6, 2011 at 5:57 am Link to this comment

President Obama, I think it would be a good idea for you to change your party affiliation
to Republican. Then people would understand who they were voting for, what they were
getting and why.

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, September 6, 2011 at 4:22 am Link to this comment

When unions agree to pay freezes and pay cuts, it is because they have been undermined by our trade policies and our economic policies.

They have no leverage.

Stop privatizing public education President Obama.

Rebuild, reinvent and redefine how???

Your “sputnik moment” is worthless if the specialized class (which is the new middle class on a far smaller scale) will not create jobs for Americans. Their competitve innovations will be manufactured overseas by whatever country has the least environmental protections and the most draconian labor laws.

I am not a cynic President Obama. You are a cynic.

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By AngeredLiberal, September 5, 2011 at 7:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ok, Wait a second! 17 minutes in the President makes the claim that if he’s in office he will fight for collective bargaining rights, unlike the oppositional party who is trying maintain or further consolidate power in the corporate/finance elite. The crowd erupts into applause and shouts 4 more years. To be honest what has he done in the last two years to show he has stood with labor? He is politicking just like the republicans. He doesn’t care. He didn’t do anything for EFCA. He didn’t stand with Wisconsinites. He hasn’t called for a increase in mimiumn wage. Single payer anyone? I just have a hard time understanding the why anyone could be proud of him and want to support him. Unless he makes a complete overall of his philosophy, governance, and choice of appointees we are getting much more of the same failed policies of Clinton, Bush I & II, and Regan. Most of which has led this country off a cliff.

Also for the soul fact that he said we need to go forward and not backwards in regard to the actions of his predecessor, isn’t he complicit?

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