On a tough Labor Day for organized labor, with unemployment at 9.7 percent and more people out of work longer than six months than at any time since World War II, President Obama attended an AFL-CIO picnic in Cincinnati. The President thanked the labor movement for worker rights that he said many Americans take for granted, telling the audience "the 40-hour work week, the minimum wage, health insurance, paid leave, pensions, Social Security, Medicare-they all bear the union label."
Mr. Obama blamed a focus on "wealth not work" for what he called a "vast and complex economic crisis." He promised to work with business and labor to make things better, but focused on his support for the labor movement, which strongly supported his Presidential campaign.
He noted he'd signed the Lilly Ledbetter act, which removed the time limit for women to file equal opportunity lawsuits. The President also said he supports the "employee free choice" act, "to level the playing field so it's easier for employees who want a union to form a union."
Mr. Obama introduced Ron Bloom as his new Senior Counselor for Manufacturing Policy. Bloom's already head of the auto task force under Treasury Secy. Geithner. His new job will involve finding ways to keep US jobs from being exported overseas. Bloom helped the steel industry deal with foreign competition. Just last month the nation's manufacturing sector grew for the first time in a year and a half.
The President also defended his push for health insurance reform. He accused his critics of adopting scare tactics and asked "What's your solution? The truth is, they don't have one. It's do nothing." He said he believes the country needs a government run health insurance program for people who can't get insurance from private companies, but didn't say if he'll insist it be a part of the reform he's willing to sign. The so called "public option" is the biggest target of Republicans who fear it would push private insurers out of business.
President Obama also talked briefly about the controversy over his plans to address the nation's school children, tomorrow. He said he'll "have something to say...telling them to stay in school and work hard because that's the right message to send." Spokesman Robert Gibbs sharply criticized complaints about the President's planned address, comparing the controversy to "an Animal House food fight."
Wendell Goler serves as a senior White House and foreign affairs correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC), joining the network in 1996.