Trumka critical of White House jobs council

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO president and a member of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, today questioned the panel’s value and members.

“I don’t know whether the commission has made any difference or not,” in shaping President Barack Obama’s policies, he said at a breakfast briefing organized by the Christian Science Monitor. “It is a legitimate question whether that commission has done anything worthwhile,” Trumka complained.

Trumka wants for Obama to embrace a big-spending jobs program, instead of the less-ambitious programs being pushed for by the White House. Those include patent-reform and free-trade with South Korea.

However, Trumka is one of just two union officials on the 26-member panel chaired by Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric. The other union member is Joseph Hansen, president of United Food and Commercial Workers International.

The panel’s other 24 members are venture capitalists, CEOs of major corporations and Penny Pritzker, a key Obama fundraiser in 2008.

Trumka used today’s press event to indirectly criticize the panel’s chairman. “You have people on the commission that are creating more jobs out of the country than you are here in this country,” remarked Trumka. His comments came just two days after the Washington Post’s front-page article alleging GE’s deal to trade U.S.-developed technology for a slice of China’s aircraft market.

Immelt has recently called on the government to bolster manufacturing companies in the United States. (RELATED: Trumka slams Obama for weak, ‘little nibbly’ labor policies)

Trumka said he has met Obama numerous times to push his proposals, and to persuade the president to include a big government-jobs program in his high-profile September speech on economic growth.

But the panel has rejected those proposals, Trumka said. “One of the arguments that I made to that commission is that we should propose [more ambitious] solutions … [but] You have people [on the panel] that really are not willing to do things beyond what they think is being done,” he complained.

Yesterday, Obama talked on the telephone from Martha’s Vineyard with Immelt and the commission’s co-chair, Ken Chenault, CEO of American Express, said White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest. “The President solicited their input on the policy — again, on the policy process that’s underway related to the major economic address that the President will deliver after Labor Day.”

Earnest also described Obama’s discussions with executives who are not serving on the panel. On Aug. 22, Obama spoke with Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, about “some possible measures that would spur investment and increase economic growth … [and] the long-term fiscal situation in this country.” Earnest also said that on the same day Obama talked with Alan Mulally, the CEO of Ford Motor Company, “about developments in the automotive and manufacturing sectors.”

“You know there are only two labor people” on the panel, Trumka said. “It is a business commission, that’s what is.”