Lesley Brennan

Trade Union Bill : Obama Praises The Work of Unions

 


11 October 2015


While David Cameron is seeking to shackle trade unions with a vindictive Trade Union Bill in this country, Barack Obama has been praising the work of trade unions in his own country.

Last week, President Obama held a Workers’ Voice meeting in the White House with representatives of the trade unions.

While David Cameron wants to enfeeble unions here, Mr Obama was saying this of unions in the US :

“When folks attack unions, they’re attacking the cops, firefighters, teachers, nurses, service workers, public servants, auto workers, plumbers, Americans who keep our streets safe and clean, who prepare our food, who clean up after us, who care for our aging parents…. We should be strengthening our labor laws, not rolling them back. “

While Mr. Cameron is considering that union members on strike should wear armbands to identify themselves and that unions give two weeks notice of posts on Twitter and Facebook regarding possible strike activity, Mr Obama congratulated the unions in the US for their good work :

Firstly historically :

“Labor unions were often the driving force for progress. The 40-hour workweek, overtime pay, health insurance, retirement plans”

And also today :

“ Good pay; benefits; workplace safety; work-family balance; skills training; the freedom to organize. That’s what unions secured for us.”

President Obama asked the trade union representatives to tell him about “ the ideas you have to strengthen workers’ voices across the country.”

He addressed the role that unions play in wages and rights at work and in reducing inequality in society.

"Wages need to rise more quickly. We need jobs to offer the kind of pay and benefits that let people raise a family -- and in order to do that, workers need a voice……as union membership has fallen, inequality has risen.”

He dismissed claims that advances in workers’ rights and higher wages held back economic growth .

“We’ve got to change an attitude and mindset that says giving workers more voice means inefficiency and we won’t be competitive, or suggests that there’s a contradiction between economic growth and decent wages, or suggests that we should have a race to the bottom with other countries, or suggests that somehow the current arrangements in which a growing amount of what we produce in this country going to the top .001 percent is in the natural order of things and is somehow fair and just.”

Contrast that positive view of President Obama on the benefits that trade unions can bring to individuals, to families, and to communities in the US with the reactionary Tory attitudes in the UK Trade Union Bill.