In Meeting with Labor Leaders, Obama Vows to Stand behind Middle Class

by Pablo Ros  |  November 14, 2012

We were there for him right up to Election Day, and now Pres. Barack Obama has promised labor leaders that he will stand up for the middle class during budget negotiations with congressional Republicans, set to begin at the end of this week.

At the White House on Tuesday, Obama heard from AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders, AFL-CIO Pres. Richard Trumka, as well as other leaders of labor and progressive groups who urged him to make sure the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share of taxes, by ending Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy, and resist cuts to entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare.

“We’re going to have our folks engaged,” Saunders told POLITICO after the meeting. “Just like they were in the election, they’re going to be engaged in this campaign. We’re going to keep the pressure on.”

No sooner were the results of the Nov. 6 elections announced than labor leaders began pressuring the lame-duck Congress to do the right thing. In an open letter to President Obama and Congress published as a full-page ad in the Washington Post, Saunders, Trumka, NEA Pres. Dennis Van Roekel, SEIU Pres. Mary Kay Henry, and other prominent progressive leaders spelled out the demands of the middle class for a new federal budget.

“As you face urgent budget decisions over the next two months, you must keep the election results in mind and resist budget cuts that slow our economy and hurt families,” the open letter reads. “The best way to reduce the deficit is to put people back to work and get our economy going again.”

Congress and the President need to reach a budget agreement soon to avoid the mixture of spending cuts and tax increases known as the “fiscal cliff” that is set to take effect Jan. 1. The scheduled changes include the end of all Bush-era tax cuts, the end of temporary tax cuts from the Obama stimulus bill, and cuts to military and domestic programs.

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