Obama in 2007: 'I'll walk on that picket line' if bargaining rights threatened

President Obama promised in 2007 to join a picket line with workers if their collective bargaining rights were ever threatened.

Amid clamor by a House liberal leader for the president to visit Wisconsin, the site of a massive battle over legislation limiting collective bargaining rights for public workers, the White House said Thursday that Obama had no plans to visit the state.

But the president said on the campaign trail that in a similar circumstance, he'd be on the ground.

"Understand this: If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain, when I'm in the White House, I'll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself. I'll walk on that picket line with you, as president of the United States of America. Because workers deserve to know that someone's standing in their corner," he said at a rally in Spartansburg, S.C., in November of 2007.

Both liberals and conservatives are recalling the speech at Converse College now that, more than two years into his presidency, Obama faces a massive labor standoff.

The battle between Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democrats in the state Senate is entering its 11th day with no end in sight. Walker is seeking legislation that would force public employees to contribute more to their benefits and pension programs, but also clamp down on their collective bargaining rights.

Obama has called Walker's legislation an "assault on unions," but has otherwise avoided comment. He's added a pool spray, though, to the top of his meeting on Friday with Democratic governors.

Some Democrats have called on him to be even more aggressive. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said on Wednesday that Obama should travel to Wisconsin.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday that he wasn't aware of any plans by Obama, who has nothing on his agenda for this afternoon, to travel to Madison.

"I think what we have made pretty clear is that the president thinks and we think, he’s stated this, that obviously a lot of states in the union are dealing with fiscal issues, big problems in their state budgets that need to be addressed," Carney said. "And they need to act responsibly, tighten their belts, live within their means, just as we in Washington, the executive branch and Congress need to do with our federal situation."


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