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President Obama Supports Unions And Teachers!

At an event in Decorah, Iowa on Monday, President Obama gave an impassioned defense of unions in our country in response to a question from a former school teacher. He also talked of the importance of revering teachers, who have been getting assaulted by the right, with the help of the media, for way too long. It’s a long answer from the President, but well worth reading. Take it away Mr. President…(emphasis mine)

Okay. The woman with the hat. She’s been waving that hat around. (Laughter.) See, you got to have a hat. That’s a huge advantage in terms of getting called on.

Q Hi, my name is Bev Kromgezmi (ph), and I actually used to teach school in the district in which Seed Savers is located. And we have a number of students, former students here, that I taught.

THE PRESIDENT: How was she? Was she a good teacher? (Applause.) You got thumbs up.

Q What can I say?

THE PRESIDENT: What did you teach?

Q High school social studies.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, that’s important stuff.

Q Many unions, especially public sector unions, helped you get elected in 2008. Those public sector unions and their members gained their salaries and benefits through collective bargaining. Recently, those benefits have been under attack. And I realize that this is a state issue mostly, but what can you do to help support collective bargaining in the states and, most of all, support the public sector unions, the middle class, many of whom are union members? Thank you. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, let’s make one thing clear. The right of workers to come together and join a union is part of what built America’s middle class. It’s the reason why we’ve got a minimum wage. (Applause.) It’s the reason why folks have weekends. It’s the reason why you have basic protections on the job from an abusive employer.

There are a whole range of things that people take for granted, even if they’re not in a union, that they wouldn’t have had if it had not been for collective bargaining. (Applause.) So I think it is very important, whether you are in a union or not — and I speak particularly to young people,because you’ve grown up at a time when in a lot of circles “union” somehow is a dirty word — to understand all this is is people joining together so they’ve got a little more leverage; so they’ve got better working conditions, better wages; they can better support their family.

And a lot of us entered into the middle class because our parent or a grandparent was in a union. Remember that. (Applause.) When I hear this kind of anti-union rhetoric and anti-union assaults, I’m thinking these folks have amnesia. They don’t remember that that helped build our middle class and strengthen our economy.

Now, you’re right. Most of this activity right now is being done at the state level, although I will tell you that some of the assaults on collective bargaining are taking place at the federal level. You remember this FAA situation where they were shutting down the airports for — threatening to shut down the airports and we were going to be laying off tens of thousands of people? The reason that happened was because folks on the other side in the House of Representatives decided, let’s try to slip in a provision that could make it harder for people to collectively bargain in the aviation industry. And Democrats wouldn’t go along. And so they said, okay, well, we’re not going to renew funding for this.

So we’re seeing some of that at the federal level as well, and we’re fighting back, pushing back against these efforts to diminish the capacity to exercise their basic freedoms and their basic rights.

Now, at the state level, in addition to just providing vocal support for public employees, what I also have been trying to do is to help states so that they can meet their obligations to their public employees and to emphasize how important it is to our future collectively that we have, for example, teachers that are getting paid a good wage. (Applause.) We can’t recruit the kinds of teachers that we need in the classroom.

And in most countries that are doing well right now educationally, their teachers are revered. They get paid on par with doctors and engineers, because there is an understanding that this is a critical profession for the future of the nation. (Applause.)

I do say, though, to my friends in the public sector unions that it is important that you are on the side of reform where reform is needed. Because the truth of the matter is, is that at a time when everybody is belt-tightening, there is nothing wrong with a union saying to itself, you know what, we know budgets are hard right now. Let’s sit down and say we’re willing to negotiate so that we’re making some sacrifices to maintain the number of teachers in the classroom and keep class sizes at a reasonable level. We’re willing to make some modifications in terms of how our pension systems work so that they’re sustainable for the next generation of teachers as long as it’s a conversation, as opposed to it simply being imposed and collective bargaining rights being stripped away.

So I think it’s important — remember we talked about shared sacrifice and burden sharing. Well, this is an area where there’s got to be burden sharing as well. If a public sector employee is able to retire at 55 with 80 percent of their wages, and the average public sector employee has got a 401(k) that they’ve just seen decline by about 20 percent and they have no idea how they’re going to retire, and they’re feeling burdened by a lot of taxes and they don’t feel like the public sector employers are making any adjustments whatsoever to reflect the tough economic realities that are facing folks who are not protected, then there’s going to be a natural backlash.

If there’s a feeling that unions aren’t partners in reform processes in things like education, then they’re going to end up being an easy target. So there’s got to be an understanding of, on the one hand, we’ve got to revere public employees — I was saying when I was in Cannon Falls that people are tired of politics, but they’re not tired of government. They may not realize it, but government are our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Government are our teachers in the classroom. Government are the FEMA folks who help people when there’s a flood or a tornado or a natural disaster. (Applause.)

But we also have to acknowledge — and sometimes Democrats aren’t good at this — is acknowledging that not every program in government is working perfectly and we’ve got to make adjustments to become more efficient and more productive, just like the private sector does. And the more we’re willing to be open to new ideas and reform and change, the more we’re going to be able to rally public opinion behind all the outstanding work that public employees do as opposed to public opinion being turned against public employees

H/T to Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly

Cross-posted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles

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August 17, 2011 - Posted by | Politics, President Barack Obama | ,

26 Comments »

  1. So this is the whole speech. It seems that MSNBC and other so called news agencies are all bent on just showing a small soundbite and then attacking Obama over it.

    Comment by Jeff | August 17, 2011 | Reply

  2. It’s the whole response to that one question, yes. I don’t watch MSNBC anymore and I’ve been off Twitter for the last week so I didn’t know they were. I suspected they would jump on the last part of the answer…the pragmatic part.

    Comment by ExtremeLiberal | August 17, 2011 | Reply

  3. Thanks, Jim. I KNEW there was more to the quote than the soundbite that Ed Schultz is having this week’s hissy fit over. I couldn’t bear to watch his show last night when he had the teacher on that asked the question. Schultz and Olbermann are in the same category as Arianna Huffington, Glenn Greenwald, Jane Hamsher and Katrina Vanden-whatever. I’m so done with the lot of them, and many “liberals” as well.

    Comment by staci | August 17, 2011 | Reply

    • I only watch 5 percent of Ed Shultz, his show isn’t much better than Hannity and I’ve called Shultz out but surprise surprise people defend this guy for some unknown reason.

      Comment by Jeff | August 17, 2011 | Reply

  4. All morning on MSNBC, they’ve been playing Maxine Waters and the black outrage erupting against Obama’s jobs record. The black community has more than twice the unemployment than the national average but lack of education over the past few decades is probably the biggest factor for black America not having good jobs….and that is not Obama’s fault.

    http://nation.foxnews.com/congressional-black-caucus/2011/08/17/anti-obama-outrage-erupts-congressional-black-caucus-when-you-unleash-us-we-re-ready

    Remember, Waters was a Hillary Clinton supporter!!!

    http://www.blackvoicenews.com/news/46594-rep-maxine-waters-black-caucus-blast-debt-deal.html

    Comment by grantinhouston | August 17, 2011 | Reply

    • And what, pray tell, is Obama supposed to do about all the fucking felonies in which young, black men have saddled themselves? How about all those fuckers that refused to get even the most basic education and quit school in the 9th grade? How about all of the folks in my age group (early to mid 50s) that have refused to do anything to enhance or acquire new skills when their old jobs went away? Good grief in the morning, the stuff folks are putting on this man’s head because he holds the title of president.

      Comment by staci | August 17, 2011 | Reply

      • My first teaching job at age 50 was in a Houston school bordering suburbia that was 30% black, 30% Hispanic, 30% white and 10% Asian-Indian. It was not inner-city but an area with many apartments/rental housing but also including an area of half-million dollar homes…quite a mixture of economic levels. The Asians were all my straight “A” students, even those kids forced to work until midnight in their parents’ Chinese restaurants. They must have done their homework during job breaks as they always had it completed by the next morning. My second most successful group were Hispanics. Since we bordered on upper-class suburbia, my white students were mostly spoiled, coddled, even trouble-makers. However, of my 30 or so black students, only a half dozen passed my science classes. There was high absenteeism/tardiness among this group and forget making contact with their parent(s). Surprisingly many of these students were being raised by a grandparent. Sadly, the poor black community seems to have become more dysfunctional in my lifetime, something our schools cannot address without more resources and personnel. These were 9th graders and so many were only marking time before they could drop out. Gov. Perry’s Texas ranks 43rd in the nation in graduation rates.

        http://www.politifact.com/texas/statements/2010/feb/05/bill-white/texas-has-43rd-best-graduation-rate-united-states/

        Comment by grantinhouston | August 17, 2011 | Reply

  5. I do wonder who is advising the President? Either he is not surrounding himself with good advisers or he is ignoring some of their recommendations. I wanted him to address JOBS right out of the gate right after the Inauguration. Healthcare is important but thanks to Tea Party obstruction, I feel far too much time was wasted to get what we got while all along Americans were suffering from loss of jobs.

    Chris Matthews just criticized Obama’s speech this morning in Illinois as too much focused on the upper middle class referring to an anecdote delivered this morning when Barack talked about he and Michelle having had their own talks in the past about their house budget, whether she gets new dresses or he gets golf clubs. GOLF CLUBS? How many unemployed Americans are even thinking about playing golf?

    Comment by grantinhouston | August 17, 2011 | Reply

    • Oh give me a break Obama’s been talking about jobs all the time. Have you been watching his townhalls or not?

      Comment by Jeff | August 17, 2011 | Reply

      • All the time? Yes, lately. Yes, I watch TV and read blogs all day. However, Obama has come to emphasizing jobs TOO LATE in my opinion. Now the blacks in Detroit may no longer support him if you listen to the uproar at the Waters “town hall” there. They have unemployment in SE Michigan over 20% (even 50% if you include those who seem to have given up). Blacks on TV are also complaining that Obama is taking his “jobs” road trips to very white (not said but implied), middle class, rural Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota, seemingly avoiding the black urban areas. Black America may not ever vote for a Republican, but if they STAY AT HOME, it brings about the same result. Obama needs to quit playing Mr. Nice Guy and LOUDLY challenge all those Republican critics and ask them for THEIR PLANS for JOBS. He cannot even challenge Rick Perry’s outrageous statements….almost jokes about Perry being NEW in the game, you know making those rookie mistakes. I know Perry and he is not making mistakes. Perry will say anything, do anything to get elected.

        Comment by grantinhouston | August 17, 2011 | Reply

        • Obama should be nice to Rick Perry, for now. The man is the best friend that the democrats could ever hope to have. He’ll gaurentee Obama a landslide while with Romney… Not nearly as easy to beat.

          But seeing as your from Texas you obviously don’t see this.

          Comment by Jeff | August 17, 2011 | Reply

          • Perry is more of a threat than Romney. But, thanks for the Texas STEREOTYPES! I spent the first 26 years of life in northern Indiana and Chicago and just got back from a 3 week road trip through 25 states, so my head is not buried in my ADOPTED state. Living in Texas for much of the last 45 years , I don’t take Gov. Rick Perry lightly. He is very charismatic and defeated soundly a popular moderate Republican (moderate compared to a teabagger) Sen. Kay Baily Hutchinson who had the support of Karl Rove and the Bush family. Then Perry turned around and beat Houston Democratic Mayor Bill White last fall. Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio are all Democratic cities and have been for several years, more liberal than many cities in our nation. Dallas County, including its white suburbs, re-elected its Democratic lesbian sheriff last fall, Lupe Valdez. Houston has a very out-of-the-closet lesbian Democratic Mayor Anise Parker. So, go ahead with the stereotypes if you wish. Remember they are often wrong.

            Comment by grantinhouston | August 17, 2011 | Reply

  6. Jim: Thought you would get a kick out of this HP headline: Obama Campaign Staffer Sends Out Email Bashing Paul Krugman And ‘Firebagger Lefty Blogosphere’

    Comment by staci | August 17, 2011 | Reply

    • Here’s more about it I found on ThePeople’sView.. gotta love Ray Sandoval!

      WASHINGTON — The Obama campaign’s point person in New Mexico recently sent an email to supporters defending the president’s position on the debt deal and bashing the “Firebagger Lefty blogosphere,” including the Nobel Prize winning New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.

      On the evening of Aug. 1, just after Congress passed legislation to raise the debt ceiling, Obama for America (OFA) New Mexico State Director Ray Sandoval sent an email to supporters with the subject line, “Please take 5 minutes to read this, Please.”

      “I know many of you have raised frustrations, but please, I implore you, please take 5 minutes and read the article below. It does a great job of explaining the Debt Ceiling deal,” Sandoval wrote in bold text.

      The rest of the email was a blog post taken from a blog called “The People’s View,” run by Spandan Chakrabarti.

      http://www.thepeoplesview.net/2011/08/professional-left-in-tears-as-ofa-and.html

      Comment by Cha | August 17, 2011 | Reply

  7. Sadly, the poor black community seems to have become more dysfunctional in my lifetime, something our schools cannot address without more resources and personnel.

    Not to get too far off topic, but you can put a shit-load of dollars into the school system (which has been done) and it still can not take the place of solid parenting. There is precious little a teacher can do with the 5 – 6 hours per day they are allotted vs the lifetime of bullshit that kid has heard/experienced. Enter Obama, and all of a sudden, the responsibility has been shifted to him to do what folks in the household couldn’t accomplish – prepare these people for adulthood with job skills that will ensure they can take care of themselves.

    Comment by staci | August 17, 2011 | Reply

  8. I was watching Ed that was hoping to catch that townhall,but all He played was a part in which President Obama said “Shared sacrifice” thats it! he had cut out the rest of the answer! I was so mad because I knew thr was more to this. I tweeted him & told him,”figures, Typical firebagger trying to rev up his audience”probably a lie. I got a tweet from someone telling me to wake up& then continued to to tell me”Do u know how powerful” Ed is? LMAO,He said Ed was more powerful than Obama& congress! I tweeted back,Yea ok,because he told us not to vote(I Did) in10? Oh boy,such power,ED& u should so be proud. he blocked me then

    Comment by yvonne | August 17, 2011 | Reply

    • Last night Ed had as guest, Melissa Fazekas, a representative of “We Are Ohio” the group that has successfully, by petition, put the union-busting SB 5 up for a vote this fall. Ed, repeatedly asked the guest if she wanted President Obama to come to Ohio to help campaign to repeal this new Kasich supported law. The guest kept avoiding Ed’s loaded question not wanting to put the president on the spot (as Ed evidently wanted to do). Ed finally gave up in frustration. (Click red spot then 10 minutes into clip.

      http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/44184077#44184077

      http://weareohio.com/about/index.html

      Comment by grantinhouston | August 18, 2011 | Reply

  9. I think the Liberal Pundit Class are really pulling at straws on this one. Obama is laying out, in rather nuanced and thought out terms, why and how many middle class Americans are siding with guys like Scott Walker, not that teachers and firefighter should get screwed out of their pensions. But, to actually report what the President believes and says would mean that many of these overpaid howlers would be out of a job.

    But then again, our politics are about a silly narrative not actual information.

    Comment by Cappadonna | August 17, 2011 | Reply

  10. Who is advising this president? While millions of Americans cannot afford to leave home this summer due to no jobs, or high gasoline prices, the Obamas take their third summer vacation on Martha’s Vineyard where they will be in the company of Wall Street billionaires, millionaire hedge-fund mangers and other celebrities. Obama has long been charged with being an “elitist” professor who has forgotten his poor Hawaiian roots, where he was raised by a single mother and working-class grandparents. Today as the the stock markets are crashing, unemployed blacks are flocking to jobs fairs, parents are hard pressed to buy their children necessary back-to-school clothes/supplies, etc., all we hear on TV is Obama is going on vacation to “hob-nob” with the super rich! Sure, his 61 days on vacation so far are only 1/3 of the number of days George W. Bush had spent at this juncture in his presidency, and presidents do deserve time off. Modern Presidents are never truly “on vacation” but connected by technology to the Oval Office. However, it is the destination that is troubling. Just as George H.W. Bush seemed out of touch with most Americans by not knowing that supermarkets had price scanners, Obama should avoid such pitfalls. If the president cannot see this, his advisers should. The framing of words and actions is most important as we close in on another election.

    Comment by grantinhouston | August 18, 2011 | Reply

    • Outraged about the Vineyard??? WTF? Have you ever been to Martha’s Vineyard? It’s not the millionaire/star-studded Bel Aire East you think it is. It’s more of a more boring version of Catalina, with less to do.

      Every building in Edgartown look exactly the same. Because they have to. (yawn)

      Why are the Obama’s there? Because it has more for the girls to do (like a beach) than Camp David, and it’s cheaper than going to Hawaii.

      Why do you continue to let the GOP-owned media tell you what you should think and feel about everything? Stop it! You should know better.

      Anyone who as actually been to Martha’s Vineyard (and doesn’t already own property there) would feel more sorry for the first family than angry with them. If I had a choice I’d be in Hawaii, and I won’t be heartbroken if I never set foot on the Vineyard ever again.

      Comment by Tally | August 18, 2011 | Reply

    • Oh, and Grant – the “Wall Street billionaires, millionaire hedge-fund mangers and other celebrities” are all in The Hamptons on Long Island, not Martha’s Vineyard.

      Comment by Tally | August 18, 2011 | Reply

      • Grant is living in the bash Obama zone so he can get his republican friends like Perry in office although he claims to despise Perry. Hmm interesting yet he does little but bash Obama for taking a vacation.

        Comment by Jeff | August 18, 2011 | Reply

  11. So Jeff, are you the gatekeeper here? I am not bashing Obama, only offering my perceptions and I will vote for him, want him to be re-elected. I have already made my first contribution to his 2012 campaign. Have you? You are becoming an asshole towards me, here. May just have to quit coming to Jim’s blog as there are too many blogs where I can give MY opinions without such bashing from a stranger who doesn’t even know me. You are no different from a teabagger in my opinion setting up YOUR litmus test for party purity.

    Tally, I was just in Hyannis (and Newport) last week. I didn’t go to the Vineyard as I had no desire to go BUT it does have a perception among most Americans that it is the playground of the RICH and powerful. After-all, the Kennedys spent a lot of time there. I have nothing against Obama taking a much needed vacation and he will be slimed anywhere he goes by the REICH who didn’t mind that at this far into his first term, George W. Bush had spent 180 days on vacation (contrary to Donald Trump now lying about that now all over TV land). I thought it cool that the Obamas went to Bar Harbor, Maine, also a resort area for the well-heeled, but their emphasis there was on getting back to nature in Acadia National Park. The Clintons once went to Wyoming and Yellowstone Park. Going to a National Park is something more Americans can relate to. But in this economy, millions aren’t able to even take a vacation trip this year.

    Comment by grantinhouston | August 18, 2011 | Reply

    • Look I have no beef with you but I am absolutely sick of people going off on Obama for the jobs situation. This isn’t his fault and he’s made repeated attempts all rebuffed by congress. So what is he supposed to do? Become a dictator?

      Comment by Jeff | August 18, 2011 | Reply

    • Now Grant, don’t go and abandon us here, I value your input. And Jeff, Grant is on our side and is being honest about how he feels. That’s what I like about the comments here. There is plenty of room for criticism of Obama and who may be advising him, that’s all in the interest of making him better…constructive criticism. And Jeff, if you disagree with Grant, argue the points, don’t resort to assigning motives to him that are not even close to what motivates Grant.

      Comment by ExtremeLiberal | August 19, 2011 | Reply

      • Okay I get your point, maybe I jumped the gun a little. One thing that I think people are upset about when it comes to presidents taking vacations especially disasters when the economy is still in a lot of trouble is the distorted view that the president can just make everything become better by some other inane action such as executive orders. There are some small things that Obama can do but not much when it comes to things like the stock market tanking or going through a bad turn.

        BTW when presidents take vacation its not vacation in the classical sense, they go out and still do executive things and keep on top of whats going on. They aren’t totally in the dark while away, they are just changing their surroundings for the time being. From what I’ve seen is that Obama’s been trying to get the people on his side and against these corporate tea baggers. I want to see Obama’s job plan and hope its bold but I’m not going to stretch myself to say the media pundits are going to like it much as no matter how bold it is they will still claim its not bold enough.

        Comment by Jeff | August 19, 2011 | Reply


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