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obama in detroit President Barack Obama addresses a group of people outside a General Motors plant in Detroit on Labor Day. (Photo courtesy Charlie Kadado)

"Let's Put America Back to Work"

President Obama spent Labor Day talking jobs in Detroit

By Charlie Kadado | null null , null

Despite the fall-like temperatures, crowds of people, mostly union workers, excitingly awaited the arrival of President Barack Obama at a Labor Day event in Detroit.

Dignitaries including Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin and numerous members of Congress welcomed the President. The "Queen of Soul," Aretha Franklin, who is originally from Detroit, was also present to welcome the President with a musical performance.

At the event, held in the parking lot of a General Motors (GM) plant, President Obama spoke of creating jobs, defending unions, and protecting the middle class. Obama brought the Secretary of Labor, Hilda L. Solis, along with him.

"(The President) is very mindful of what the needs and concerns are of those individuals who have been out of work for so long," Solis told the crowd. "I don't want to get in front of the President, but I know that he's going to be really helping to energize and hopefully get a lot of folks from both sides of the aisle to understand the importance of working on these proposals that he's going to put forward to put millions of people back to work."

Detroit hosted a Labor Day parade before Obama's arrival. The annual parade, which focuses on highlighting the jobs of union workers, attracted thousands of autoworkers, nurses, construction workers, and other sectors to march through the city.

"If you want to know who helped lay these cornerstones of an American middle class you just have to look for the union label," President Obama said. "That's the bedrock this country is built on. Hard work. Responsibility. Sacrifice. Looking out for one another. Giving everybody a shot, everybody a chance to share in America's prosperity, from the factory floor to the boardroom. That's what unions are all about."

The President also used his appearance in Detroit as a way to send a message to the Republicans in Congress.

"We're not going to wait for (Republicans). We're going to see if we've got some straight shooters in Congress," Obama said. "We're going to see if congressional Republicans will put country before party. We'll give them a plan, and then we'll say, do you want to create jobs?"

Bob King, the President of the United Auto Workers (UAW) and James Hoffa, the president of the Teamsters, were just a few of the labor leaders who listened to the President's speech. Obama's message to them was focused on celebrating their labor efforts.

"I'm not satisfied just to get back to where we were before the recession; we've got to fully restore the middle class in America," Obama said. "And America cannot have a strong, growing economy without a strong, growing middle class and without a strong labor movement."

President Obama added that "not just the CEO in the corner office, but also the janitor who cleans that office after the CEO goes home" should have a voice on their job.

"We're fighting for good jobs with good wages. We're fighting for health care when you get sick. We're fighting for a secure retirement even if you're not rich. We're fighting for the chance to give our kids a better life than we had," the President added. "That's what we're doing to restore middle-class security and rebuild this economy the American way — based on balance and fairness and the same set of rules for everybody from Wall Street to Main Street."

Obama stopped short of unveiling his entire jobs plan. Instead, he'll do that on Thursday before a joint session of Congress. He's expected to outline multiple proposals for getting the country's economy back on track.

But one thing the President said needs to be done is for both parties to put aside Washington politics and speak to the issues that concern middle-class Americans.

"We've got roads and bridges across this country that need rebuilding. We've got private companies with the equipment and the manpower to do the building. We've got more than one million unemployed construction workers ready to get dirty right now," the President said. "There is work to be done and there are workers ready to do it. Labor is on board. Business is on board. We just need Congress to get on board.

"Let's put America back to work."

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