Speaking to a crowd in Boston on Labor Day, President Barack Obama praised labor unions while attacking those Republican presidential candidates known for opposing them.
“They’re the ones who gave us overtime and the minimum wage, and all kinds of things that folks now take for granted,” the president declared. “All those gains are union-made. They’re stamped with the union label. They’re what we celebrate today.”
After detailing why he likes unions, Obama went after Gov. Chris Christie and Gov. Scott Walker. The two Republican presidential candidates have a reputation for challenging organized labor. While Christie is known for speaking out against union bosses, Walker defined his first term as governor by reining in their power.
“Take a look at some of the folks who want to be their standard-bearer in the next election,” the president stated. “One candidate, he is bragging about how he destroyed collective bargaining rights in his state.”
It was reforms to collective bargaining in Wisconsin that Walker pursued back in 2011 which first put him at odds with the most powerful national unions. The reforms, known as Act 10, allowed state employees to choose whether they wanted to pay union dues. In the past year, Republicans in the legislature went a step further by banning mandatory union dues statewide. The policy, which is now enacted in 25 states, is known as right-to-work.
“A whole bunch of them are hoping to make ‘right-to-work’ the law of the land,” Obama continued. “They think that’s the answer to economic prosperity.”
Walker has stood by his reforms, arguing they have helped improve the state economy while saving on taxes. Unions, however, claim the reforms have taken away worker rights. Even after officially announcing his run for president July 13, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was quick to condemn his campaign.
“It’s clear the President stands with the big government union bosses,” Walker said while speaking in New Hampshire. “It’s ironic that we’re out here talking about freedom because what we did in Wisconsin was about taking the power away from the big government union bosses and putting the power back into the hands of the hard-working taxpayers in our state.”
To get the Republican nomination, Walker will first have to beat Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul among others in the Republican primary.
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