On Heels of Debt Deal, Obama Meets with Union Leaders at White House

By Fred Lucas | August 2, 2011 | 10:43 AM EDT

President Obama addresses the AFL-CIO Executive Council meeting in Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2010. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is seated to Obama’s right. (Photo from AFL-CIO Web site)

(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama was meeting with union leaders at the White House Tuesday morning, part of an effort to retain organized labor’s support going into the 2012 election.

A meeting with the AFL-CIO Executive Committee at 9:15 a.m. was the first item listed on Obama’s public schedule for Tuesday. The meeting is closed to the press.

Many liberals in the Democrat Party are criticizing the debt limit legislation Obama has pledged to sign. The AFL-CIO, along with other unions, wanted the deal to include the elimination of tax breaks for wealthy Americans, but Republicans nixed that provision.

AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, called the compromise debt-ceiling deal “economic malpractice.”

“At the least, it will slow economic recovery and impose more joblessness, wage cuts and hardship on America’s working families,” AFSCME President Gerald W. McEntee said in a statement on the union’s Web site. He accused the tea party of holding the nation “hostage.”

“Looking ahead to the negotiations in the ‘super committee,’ we will fight alongside our friends in Congress and with the President to ensure that the ultimate resolution creates rather than destroys jobs, and does not gut vital programs, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, in order to preserve tax breaks for the wealthy and prosperous corporations,” McEntee said.

(The debt limit bill calls for a 12-member congressional committee, half Democrats and half Republicans, to find additional deficit reduction measures, and the elimination of tax breaks for the wealthy may be part of the “revenue” side.)

On July 26, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told a gathering of the organization in Las Vegas that organized labor should be tougher on Democrats.

“Our single job, our sole mission, our sole priority, is to represent the interests of men and women who work, who bring home wages—and to represent them honestly and fearlessly, every single day, with no caveats, no apologies,” Trumka said.

“A lot of people think that means we need to be harder on Democrats, and it does. President Obama and the Democrats have done a great deal—not enough—but a lot. Still, we need a lot more. And we will not be quiet about it.”

Like McEntee, Trumka views the tea party as the real enemy.

“We intend to hold everyone in public office accountable, regardless of their political party, and yet, brothers and sisters, let’s be crystal clear about who has consistently launched and relentlessly pursued attacks on working people,” Trumka said. “Tea party Republicans -- again and again and again -- have been a united front against us, against all working people in America, to do all the harm they can.”

The union lobby has traditionally be a big fundraiser for Democratic candidates.