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.