Labor Leader Trumka: Job-Creation Plans Require ‘Boldness’

BY James Melia  August 31, 2011 at 7:14 PM EST


AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka; file photo

When it comes to jump-starting the struggling U.S. economy, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka proclaimed Wednesday, “This is a time for boldness.” The labor leader spoke at his union’s annual Labor Day news conference in Washington.

“This is a moment that working people will judge all of our leaders — see if they will propose solutions that are on the scale necessary to address the job crisis America has right now,” said Trumka, as he sat alongside long-time unemployed and underemployed Americans, and other AFL-CIO leaders. “This economic mess, this inequality and joblessness, are the result of politics, which means the solution must be political as well.”

“We need to put America back to work,” Trumka added. With that goal in mind, the AFL-CIO outlined a six-part “Good Jobs Plan,” which includes rebuilding infrastructure, reviving manufacturing and increasing government spending through stimulus.

Asked whether he was worried about voter fatigue with stimulus plans, Trumka responded, “Stimulus packages work. People are cynical, nervous and they want action. They see people stalling. Politics are more important than the country, and I refuse to believe that.”

It was a busy day for Trumka, who is also a member of President Obama’s jobs council. Earlier Wednesday, he stood beside the president as he called on Congress to pass extensions on the Surface Transportation Bill and the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization. “It’s inexcusable to put more jobs at risk… It’s inexcusable to cut off necessary investments at a time our highways are choked with congestion and bridges in need of repair,” said the president in his remarks. Mr. Obama’s comments Wednesday came in advance of a highly anticipated jobs speech next week.

The president had requested to address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, Sept. 7, but House Speaker John Boehner responded in a letter to Mr. Obama, asking him to move his speech to Thursday, Sept. 8, citing conflicts in the House schedule.

For his part, Trumka has made clear the kind of approach he hopes the president will take when it comes to his job-creation plans. “Will [President Obama] commit all his energy to offering bold solutions, or will he continue to work with the Tea Party?” Trumka said last week at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. During that same breakfast, Trumka also critiqued the president’s efforts regarding job creation as a “little nibbly things around the edges.”

In perhaps another sign that labor has grown frustrated with the president and other Democratic allies in Washington, the AFL-CIO announced last week that it will form a so-called super PAC, which will allow the organization to raise unlimited sums of money for campaign activities. Trumka said Wednesday that the super PAC will be “an independent voice… an advocacy arm to help build the power of America’s silent majority, the middle class, the poor. It will not directly fund political or politicians’ campaigns. But it will be an effort by and for the working people.”

That may bode trouble for Mr. Obama and other Democrats running for office next year who count on donations from supporters in organized labor to help fill their campaign coffers.