Democrats are wondering why President Obama isn’t speaking out in support of the public workers’ unions in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio. Several, including Representatives Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Chellie Pingree of Maine, and Judy Chu of California have urged Obama to do more to stand by public employees.
They have a point.
Obama did accuse Gov. Walker of an “assault” on unions and it was widely reported that the White House political operation — Organizing for America and the Democratic National Committee, got involved to build crowds for demonstrations at the Wisconsin Capital and elsewhere.
When it became clear how unpopular supporting the public unions had become, Obama slinked away from the Wisconsin union fight. Obama wasn’t always so reticent to display his union label.
Presidential candidate Obama specifically promised to walk the picket line if workers’ collective bargaining rights are denied when he’s in the White House. Not only that, presidential candidate Obama told the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) membership that they share a common agenda — “your [SEIU] agenda’s been my agenda.” On another occasion presidential candidate Barack Obama reminded a campaign crowd that he is firmly tied to the SEIU.
Obama’s Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked about the “Wisconsin situation,” the calls of Ellison and others for Obama to stand with the Wisconsin public workers’ unions and Obama’s promise to walk the picket line at the February 25, 2010 press briefing. Carney didn’t want anything to do with the questions. Especially after polls found Obama’s leadership rating fell to a new record low and two-thirds of likely voters disapprove of Wisconsin legislators fleeing the state to avoid their duty to vote on Governor Walker’s plan to restrict certain bargaining rights of public workers’ unions.
All Carney would offer, in an effort to hide Obama’s previously proudly-worn union label, was a more politically acceptable call for the parties to come together and reach a solution.