AFl-CIO chief Trumka warns Obama on "nibbling around" jobs crisis

Richard Trumka, the president of the US' largest labor group, said President Obama made a "strategic mistake" by linking job creation to deficit reduction. The head of the AFL-CIO told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor that the coming months would be crucial for President Obama's standing with working Americans.

Michael Bonfigli / The Christian Science Monitor
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka speaks to reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor on Aug. 25. Trumka warned President Obama to avoid "nibbling" in his plans to kick-start the nation's economy.

Labor leader Richard Trumka is president of the AFL-CIO, a federation of 55 national and international unions. He was guest speaker at the Aug. 25 Monitor breakfast in Washington.

President Obama's leadership on the economy:

"Look at the stimulus package. He led there. It wasn't big enough and it was broken up the wrong way, but it was leadership.... He made a strategic mistake ... months ago when he would talk about job creation and in the same sentence talk about deficit reduction, and people got the two confused."

His talks with Mr. Obama about the jobs crisis:

"What I said [to Obama] ... [is] if you only propose what you think [Republicans] will accept, they control the agenda. I urged him to propose what was necessary to solve the problem.... If he ... falls into nibbling around the edge [of the problem], I think history will judge him and I think working people will judge him."

Whether the Texas economic "miracle" heralded by Gov. Rick Perry (R) should be copied nationwide:

"God help us if that model is nationalized.... Economists will tell you they have the same unemployment level down there [in Texas] you've had anywhere else. The jobs that were created were minimum wage or subminimum wage.... It's a dismal model."

Whether Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, to which Mr. Trumka belongs, is effective:

"I ask that very same question myself: Does it make a difference? [I]s it worthwhile?... There are only two labor people on that commission. It is a business commission, is what it is."

The danger of economic austerity programs, like the one in Greece:

"The more they impose the austerity program on them, the deeper their recession goes.... The same thing ... is applicable here. The more that we move away from helping the economy grow to slashing it, the more likely we are to go into recession."

Union voter turnout and whether it will drop in 2012 over dissatisfaction with government response to a bad economy:

"Yes.... If it is more of the same and we are muddling along ... there will be less enthusiasm by the entire population."

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