President Obama Rallies Workers at Milwaukee's Laborfest
By Press Officer
Office of the White House
The President celebrated Labor Day by visiting the city of
Milwaukee for Laborfest, an annual festival hosted by the local AFL-CIO. While
there, he spoke on a number of issues -- most notably the need to raise the
minimum wage for America's workers.
Kicking off his remarks, the President said that Labor Day
belongs to the “working folks who are here today, and the unions who've always
had your back,” and emphasized the importance of building our economy from the
middle class out:
“I didn't run for President to double down on top-down
economics. I ran for President because I believed in bottom-up economics. I
believed in middle-out economics. I placed a bet on you. I placed a bet on
America’s workers. I put my money on American workers and the belief that our
economy grows best when everybody has got a shot -- when folks who are willing
to work hard can get into the middle class and stay in the middle class. And
I’ve come back to Laborfest to say that because of your hard work, because of
what we’ve been through together, that bet is starting to pay off.”
The President then went on to detail exactly how America is
• We've created nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 53
months -- and over the past six months, we've created more than 200,000 jobs
• Our businesses are exporting more goods made in America
than ever before.
• The United States is now the world's number-one oil and
gas producer -- and for the first time in almost 20 years, we're producing more
oil than we buy from other countries.
• We're also producing more clean energy, which is creating
tens of thousands of good jobs across the country.
• America's high school graduation rate is at a record high,
and more middle-class families can afford college -- and as a result, more
young people are earning college degrees than ever before.
• Millions more Americans have quality, affordable health
insurance that they can count on.
“By almost every measure, the American economy and American
workers are better off than when I took office,” the President said. But “none
of this progress has come easy. Every inch of it we have had to fight for.
Every inch of it we've had to work against a lockstep opposition that is
opposed to everything we do.”
“The question now is,
are we going to make the right decisions to accelerate this progress?”
It’s a good thing that corporate profits are high; I want
American businesses to succeed. It’s a good thing that the stock market is
booming; a lot of folks have 401Ks in there, I want them to feel good. But I
also want to see the guy who’s breaking his back on two eight-hour shifts so
he’s got enough money to send his kids to college, I want to make sure that guy
is getting a break. I want to make sure he’s getting some help. I want to see
that woman who’s worked for 40 years be able to retire with some dignity and
some respect. That’s how I measure progress -- not just by how well the economy
is doing overall but how it’s doing for folks who are working so hard doing
everything right, just want a fair shot, and didn’t have anything handed to
them in their lives, weren’t born with a silver spoon in their mouths.
“That's what at stake,” the President said. “Making sure the
economy works for everybody.”
I’ve got a vision of an economy where opportunity is open to
everybody who’s willing to work hard. I want an economy where new, long-term
investments in American energy and American infrastructure and American
manufacturing and American innovation are unleashing new jobs in new industries
right here in Wisconsin, right here in Milwaukee; an economy where our workers
have the chance to earn new skills that lead to that good job; where children
graduate from school fully prepared for the global competition they’re going to
I want an economy where your hard work pays off with higher
wages, and higher incomes, and fairer pay for women, and workplace flexibility
for parents, and affordable health insurance, and decent retirement benefits.
I’m not asking for the moon, I just want a good deal for American workers.
President Obama also noted that we could get more done
"if we had a Congress that cared about policies that actually helped
working people." But until then, he said, "it’s up to us to fight for
these policies" -- and noted some of the actions he's taken on his own:
I acted on my own to make sure more women had the
protections they needed to fight for fair pay on the workplace -- because I
think when women succeed, America succeeds. I was raised by a single mom, so
know how hard it is for a lot of women out there. And, by the way, men, you
should want your wife to get paid fair. She’s bringing that money home. That’s
not a women’s issue, that’s your issue. That’s money out of your family’s
That’s why I took action on my own to give millions of
Americans the chance to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their
incomes. I don’t want young people saddled with debt when they’re just starting
out in life. That’s why I acted on my own to make sure companies that receive
federal contracts, that they pay their workers a fair wage of at least $10.10
an hour. If you work full time in America, you shouldn’t be living in poverty,
you shouldn’t be trying to support a family in poverty.
And in the year and a half since I first asked Congress to
raise the minimum wage -- of course, the Republicans in Congress have blocked
it -- but more and more Americans are doing their part to make it happen. This
is why I stay optimistic, even with some of the nonsense that goes on in
Washington. You’ve seen business leaders at companies like The Gap that raised
base wages for tens of thousands of workers because they knew it was good for
business. You’ve seen mayors across the country doing their part, and today, on
Labor Day, the mayor of Los Angeles is announcing a plan to raise his city’s
"There is no denying a simp?le truth: America deserves
President Obama also highlighted the important role that
unions play in protecting American workers, saying that "if I were looking
for a good job that lets me build some security for my family, I’d join a
If I were busting my butt in the service industry and wanted
an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, I’d join a union. If I were a
firefighter or police officer risking my life and helping to keep my community
safe, and wanted to make sure I came home safely to my family, I’d join a
union. I’d want a union looking out for me.
"And if I cared about these things," he said,
"I'd also want more Democrats looking out for me ... because when the rest
of the country is working to raise wages, but Republicans in Congress won't, it
When the rest of the country is working to open up more businesses,
but Republicans in Congress block investments that would help more businesses
grow, it ain’t right. When unions and CEOs, when law enforcement and the
evangelical community, when folks who usually don’t agree on anything agree
that we should be fixing our broken immigration system, but the Republicans in
the House of Representatives have been sitting on a bill for more than a year,
it ain’t right.
The President then explained that we need to continue to
fight, and implored the crowd to believe in their own ability to "bring
about the change we need."
I'm asking you to
believe in you. Because even when our politics just ain’t right, there’s a
whole lot that is right with America.
America is that dad who punches in every morning to put food
on the table. America is the mom who’s working the graveyard shift to provide
for her kids. America is the child who dreams of being the first in his family
to go to college. America is the teacher who stays after work and dips into her
own pocket for supplies to help that child get there. America is the autoworker
who thought she’d never make another car again, and now she can’t make them
fast enough. America is the construction worker who’s helping build more homes
and businesses to get solar panels on the top. America is on the move. America
is on the move.
America is not the party we belong to, but the values we
share. America is hard work. America is responsibility. America is sacrifice.
America is looking out for one another. Let’s embrace some economic patriotism
that says we rise or fall together as one nation, as one people.
He also noted that changing the status quo is one of the
hardest things to do, and reiterated that people need to get involved,
organize, vote -- and stay hopeful:
Cynicism is fashionable
these days, but cynicism didn’t put anybody on the moon. Cynicism never won a
war, it never cured a disease, it never started a business, it never fed a
young mind, it never built a road or a bridge.
Cynicism is a bad choice. Hope is the better choice. Hope is
what gives us courage. Hope is what gave soldiers courage to storm a beach.
Hope is what gives young people the strength to march for women’s rights, and
worker’s rights, and civil rights, and voting rights, and gay rights, and
Hope, the belief that there are
better days ahead; the belief that together, we can build up our middle class
and hand down something better to our kids -- that’s what built America. And
America’s best days are still ahead. I believe it. You need to believe it, too.
Let’s get to work.
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