The Most Worker Friendly President Since FDR

In his Labor Day message, the president once again renewed his call to raise the minimum wage, saying that no one who works full time in America should have to live in poverty.



Labor day isn't just for bar-b-ques and a long weekend. Labor Day is the day we dedicate to people who are working hard for themselves, for their families, and for their communities. Things like the minimum wage, the 40-hour workweek, the right to a safe work environment, and even the weekend were all hard won victories by organized labor, while laws to protect workers from discrimination came when organized labor fought side by side with civil rights groups.

The labor movements proudest achievement in American history, without a doubt, is FDR's New Deal, which continued progress with LBJ's Great Society. But in the intervening years since then, corporate interests colluded with the country's political leadership (when they didn't collude, the corporate interests outright bought the political leadership) to try to walk that progress back.

Whether through "free trade" deals that globalized the rights of corporations but not the rights of workers, or through union busting, or through nefarious political strategies to make one group of American afraid that another group would take their crumbs - I mean, jobs - or through the Supreme Court's absurd pronouncements that women couldn't sue for pay discrimination, the basic fairness for American workers - and with it the great American middle class - seemed in danger.

The working folk of America needed a champion - we needed a fierce advocate, if you will. And we elected one in 2008. If by some miracle of happenstance, President Obama didn't have to work twice as hard to get half the recognition, even from "liberals" in the media, it would be patently obvious to everyone that the man presently occupying the Oval Office is the most worker-friendly president since Franklin Roosevelt. Barack Obama is a president who has more than kept his word to always make the best decision for people who work for a living.

The first bill this president signed into law was the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a law that reversed an injustice perpetrated by the Supreme Court that said that women couldn't sue their employers for pay discrimination if they found out about the discrimination too late. It's a bill the previous president had threatened to veto.

Entering office at the height of the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression, this president fought for, and got enacted, the largest economic stimulus in American history, saving or creating up to 3.6 million jobs. It is the law that kept the United States from going into a second Great Depression, and the world's economy from a complete and utter disaster. That stimulus was supplemented by other smaller bills that kept teachers, police officers and firefighters working in states, and extended unemployment insurance benefits as a lifeline to the victims of the economic calamity caused by conservative policies.

Against a blistering political wind, the president held fast in his resolve to rescue and remake the American auto industry, saving and creating another 1.5 million jobs, and giving auto workers a direct stake in American auto companies. Thanks to his leadership and the hard work of the people who make American cars, GM is once again the world's top auto manufacturer, and people no longer look at American cars as gas-guzzling vanishing giants of the past. Thanks largely to the revival of the American auto industry, American manufacturing is on a slow upward tick instead of its recent precipitous decline.

This president, facing fierce opposition from the apoplectic Right and the self-aggrandizing Left, got done something that presidents have tried and failed for the better part of a century: health care reform that established a public responsibility to help pay for health insurance for those who can ill-afford it.

The Affordable Care Act wasn't just the president's key domestic policy accomplishment, it was probably the last half century's most significant worker-friendly legislation. It outlaws discrimination on the basis of pre-existing conditions, mandates quality coverage, creates both individual and employer responsibility, makes preventive care free of copays, forces insurance companies to spend 80-85% of premiums on actually paying for health care, and provides peace of mind to working people and families. Because of the Affordable Care Act, young adult children can now stay on their parents' health care plan up to age 26.

Because of Obamacare, children already cannot be denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions, and this becomes the reality for everyone next year. Because of Obamacare, insurance companies can no longer drop you because you get sick. And because of Obamacare, working people will no longer have to worry about losing health care if they switch careers or start their own business.

After the passage of the ACA, another heavy lift for the president was Wall Street reform - once again with the screeching Left and the furious Right accusing him of being a corporate sellout and a pinko commie, respectively. But that law too was focused on helping working people and protecting them from the deceptive practices of banking and financial giants. Not only did it provide for new mortgage and banking regulations, it for the first time in the nation's history created a federal agency dedicated to protecting the average consumer, who is also the average worker - an agency that is creating a simple mortgage form, putting debt collectors on notice, and more.

Consumer protection cannot be separated from worker protection, and this president understands that. A key part of protecting workers and their families and their financial security is to make sure that they do not fall victim to loan sharks, unscrupulous business practices and financial giants who decide to gamble with your money.

Throughout the first two years, and even after the Republicans took over the House, President Obama has instituted several tax cuts for working people and families, and many of them remain in effect today, while the president kept his promise make the richest Americans pay a fairer share of their wealth to rebuild our commonwealth.

The above is just a list - and an incredibly limited one at that - of the president's legislative accomplishments and advocacies for working Americans. This president had penned trade deals that are actually benefiting American workers. In a deal with South Korea, he actually opened the South Korean market to American cars more than the other way around. With South American countries, the president penned a deal that is adding to American exports and American jobs.

Administratively, this administration's labor department and the National Labor Relations Board has been the most labor-friendly in modern history, and the progress would be even greater if corporation friendly courts weren't trying to block the NLRB's decision to fast track union elections.

In fact, a look at basically all of the president's domestic policy - from bills that became law to bills that were blocked by Republicans, from legislation to administrative rulemaking - has been focused on one thing and one thing alone: helping America's workers regain a footing in this economy. His job has not been easy, to put a severely mild point on it. But if on this labor day, we're looking for a best friend of the American worker in government, the man behind the presidential seal is a pretty good pick.


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