President Obama used Labor Day to tout the country’s economic gains under his leadership and make an election-year case that higher wages and other progress for workers can only be achieved through a Democrat-controlled Congress.
“American workers and the American economy are better off since I took office,” Obama told a crowd filled with union supporters at the annual Laborfest event in Milwaukee.
“I’m not asking for the moon. I’m asking for policies that help folks get ahead. … Republicans running Congress are opposed to them.”
At one point in the speech, Obama enthusiastically told the crowd: “If I were looking for a good job that lets me build some security for my family, I’d join a union.”
While never specifically mentioning the mid-term elections in which Democrats are trying to keep control of the Senate, Obama repeatedly blamed Republicans for trying to block such efforts as immigration reform, increasing the federal minimum wage and lowering the cost of health care through the ObamaCare.
“Don’t boo, vote,” Obama told the crowd, recycling one of his popular lines from his 2012 reelection campaign.
Obama, who attended the event while running for president in 2008, also reminded the crowd that he took office in the early stages of the so-called Great Recession and highlighted some of the progress made in the recovery -- including U.S. businesses adding nearly 10 million jobs over the past 53 months.
“Despite what the critics say, America is on the move,” Obama said.
He also pointed out that the U.S. unemployment rate now stands at 6.2 percent, dropping 1.1 points over the past year, after peaking at 10 percent in October 2009.
However, hourly wages have decreased since mid-2013 for essentially every income group, except for the country’s lowest wage-earners, who benefited from states increasing their minimum wage.
The president made no mention of the country’s pressing international concerns, including Russia’s presence in Ukraine and what his administration plans to do about the rising threat in the Middle East of the militant group Islamic State.
Obama was greeted at the Milwaukee airport by Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker, who nearly lost his job in a 2011 recall election because of his efforts to cut budget shortfalls by eliminating public sector unions’ collective-bargaining agreements for pensions, wage increases and health care.
However, Mary Burke, the Democrat who is running in November against Walker, attended Laborfest but did not appear on stage with Obama, who has low job-approval ratings.