REDFORD, Mich. – President Barack Obama took a stand against Gov. Rick Snyder’s recent push for a right-to-work law in a campaign-style speech Monday at the Daimler Detroit Diesel plant.
“What we shouldn’t be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions,” Obama said to a loud roar of applause from the audience.
The president said the controversial legislation, which would make it illegal for a worker to pay union dues as a condition of employment, hurts workers and distracts from a focus on economic recovery.
“The so-called ‘right-to-work’ laws — they don’t have to do with economics, they have everything to do with politics,” Obama said. “What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.”
Obama said right-to-work laws make it harder for middle-class families to get by and that the focus should be on helping businesses grow instead of striking down union power.
“We don’t want a race to the bottom. We want a race to the top,” Obama said.
Last Thursday, Snyder announced his support for right-to-work legislation following nearly two years of pushing talks to the side and both houses of the legislature soon passed three right-to-work bills.
The final votes are expected to be made Tuesday on the bills, and Snyder said he is ready to sign them immediately. In doing so, Michigan would become the nation’s 24th right-to-work state.
Snyder met with top Michigan Democrats, many of whom were present for Obama’s speech, earlier in the day, urging him to veto the legislation or at least delay the vote.
The right-to-work legislation affects all private employees and public employees, excluding firefighters and police.
Large numbers of pro-union protesters are expected at the Capitol Tuesday to protest the legislation’s passage.
Obama: Invest here
Obama announced a $120 million investment by Daimler in the plant that will create 115 new jobs. He pointed to the investment as another sign of success in the American auto industry following the $80 billion bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler in 2009.
“I placed my bet on American workers and on American ingenuity. I’d place that bet any day of the week, and three and a half years later, that bet is paying off,” Obama said.
The president said the “competitive balance” between China and the United States is tipping back in America’s favor as the costs of Chinese labor rise and American productivity increases.
“It makes sense to invest here,” he said.
Obama says no compromise on higher taxes for wealthy
Obama spent much of his speech urging congressional Republicans to extend the Bush-era tax cuts on income up to $250,000, while letting those at the top expire as a part of a deal to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff,” the combination of automatic spending cuts and tax hikes set to happen at the end of the year that could plunge the economy into recession.
“I believe we are at our best when everybody who works hard has a chance to get ahead,” he said. “That’s the idea that’s in the heart of the economic plan I have talked about all year long on the campaign trail.”
While he said he is ready to come to the table and make some compromises with the GOP to avoid the fiscal cliff, he reiterated his hard-line stance on taxes. Obama said he cannot ask middle class families and the elderly to sacrifice if the wealthy don’t “pay a little more” as well.
Obama touted his plan to avoid what he called a “manufactured” crisis, which would include new spending on infrastructure projects in addition to new revenue and cuts to federal programs and entitlements.
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn and Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, were among the prominent politicians in attendance.
Snyder greeted the president at Air Force One when it landed at Detroit Metropolitan Airport earlier in the day, but was not present for the speech.