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Obama wades into labor fight on Michigan swing
Says Republicans are risking harm to the economy
Stumping for higher taxes on top earners, President Obama Monday also inserted himself squarely into Michigan’s boiling debate over a new right-to-work labor law, telling a crowd of Detroit-area auto workers that Republicans pushing for the law are creating political distractions and risking harm to the economy.
“What we shouldn’t be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions,” the president said at the Daimler Detroit Diesel plant in Redford, Mich. “We don’t want a race to the bottom, we want a race to the top.”
He urged the state’s GOP-controlled legislature and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder to abandon their efforts to pass the law, which would forbid unions from charging its members dues automatically. Michigan would be the 24th state to adopt the right-to-work law, following Indiana’s passage of a similar law in February.
Labor groups and their Democratic allies plan more protests as the bills to implement right-to-work are voted on this week, calling the issue a divisive one in a state long seen as a bastion of the union movement.
“Folks from our state’s capital all the way to the nation’s capital should be focused on the same thing,” Mr. Obama said. “They should be working to make sure companies like this manufacturer is able to make more great products. America’s not going to compete based on low-skill, low-wage, no workers’ rights — that’s not our competitive advantage.”
He said higher union wages enable workers to buy American products, “because they’ve got enough money in their pockets.”
But supporters of the right-to-work law, which would undercut a key source of union funding, say Mr. Obama’s opposition represents a political payback.
“After Big Labor bosses spent nearly a billion dollars in 2008, and a billion more in 2012, to elect President Obama and other forced unionism partisans to office, it is expected that President Obama would want to prop up a system of political paybacks that compels workers to pay for union boss politics that benefit Obama and other Big Labor politicians as a condition of employment,” he said in a statement.
Mr. Mix said private-sector employment has increased 12.5 percent in right-to-work states over the past decade, far better than in states where there is no right-to-work laws.
The president said he’s “willing to compromise a little bit” in the negotiations to reach a deficit-reduction deal, but said he won’t compromise on his proposal to hike tax rates on families earning more than $250,000 per year, while preserving tax cuts for the middle class.
His visit to the Detroit area also represented something of a victory lap for Mr. Obama, who campaigned heavily for reelection on his support for the auto bailout and accused Republican opponent Mitt Romney of abandoning the industry. Mr. Obama carried the state Nov. 6, despite the fact that his GOP rival was born there.
The president praised the German-based Daimler for announcing Monday that it will invest $125 million in an expansion of its U.S. operations, creating 115 new jobs.
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About the Author
Dave Boyer is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times. A native of Allentown, Pa., Boyer worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 2002 to 2011 and also has covered Congress for the Times. He is a graduate of Penn State University. Boyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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