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by Jules Witcover
The country has just experienced about as somber a Labor Day as most of us can remember. It came with the grim news that for the first time in many years, a month had passed with absolutely no job growth and with the unemployment rate mired at 9.1 percent.
In better times, Labor Day was a sort of
Appropriately named Cadillac Square in the Motor City would be jammed with union members celebrating the marriage of the AFL-CIO, the
On Labor Day, President Obama dutifully went to Detroit, not to Cadillac Square but to a parking lot outside a
The greeting outside the GM plant rang out more as a plaintive hope than a triumphant assurance. A
All the chief "labor skates" of the union movement were present, including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, UAW President Bob King and
Obama went to Detroit because in a real sense it personifies the American middle class that the unions were so critical in building in the 1930s and beyond. And that middle class must be fully restored, Obama said, if America is to have an economic recovery.
He cited the domestic auto industry, noting, "the Big Three are turning a profit and hiring new workers." He touted the new advanced battery industry "taking root here in Michigan that barely existed before."
Obama offered a preview of his upcoming speech to
It's arguable, though, that business is on board, with employers holding off on hiring as their profits mount through increased labor productivity from fewer workers. But Obama preferred to make the Republicans in
The president told the Detroit crowd: "We're going to see if we've got some straight shooters in
Near the close, he recalled the Detroit Labor Day visit 63 years earlier of Harry Truman, who "talked about how Americans had voted in some folks into
That Truman speech launched his campaign against "the
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