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President Obama Must Speak the Word Union Loudly


He did not put on those shoes when his Republican opponent Mitt Romney attacked 29,000 Chicago teachers striking in President Obama’s hometown of Chicago, or when Hostess Brands management bankrupted the company – again – and speciously blamed the loss of Twinkies on the company’s15,000 union workers, or when the American Crystal Sugar Co. locked out 1,300 union workers.

Now, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that in 2012 the number of American workers in labor unions fell to a record low of 11.3 percent, down from 20.1 percent two decades earlier. Now, new legislation to limit bargaining rights has been introduced in Pennsylvania and Missouri, and even in the U.S. Congress by radical Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul.

These Republicans intend to wipe out labor unions. In his 2011 Labor Day speech, President Obama described the consequence of killing unions:

“America cannot have a strong, growing economy without a strong, growing middle class and without a strong labor movement.”

The American labor movement knows President Obama supports it philosophically. He has said so repeatedly on Labor Day. But he never mentioned unions in his inaugural or State of the Union addresses, except once in passing. As extremists try to destroy the labor movement in this country, it’s essential for President Obama to formally and forcefully declare to the entire nation the merits of unions.

Last month, in his second inaugural address, the President said:

“preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.”

His fifth State of the Union speech this week gives President Obama a perfect opportunity to proclaim to all of America that he will preserve the freedom to engage in collective action. It’s an important moment for him to say the word union loudly.