Despite battles over Keystone and jobs council, AFL-CIO endorses Obama

The nation's largest federation of unions announced Tuesday that it would be endorsing President Obama's reelection effort, an expected — but welcome — boost for the president's campaign.

The endorsement comes despite recent high-profile rifts between the administration and unions over the president's jobs council and Obama's move to delay construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

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"Although the labor movement has sometimes differed with the president and often pushed his administration to do more and do it faster, we have never doubted his commitment to working families," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement.

"President Obama has earned the support of working people for a second term and today the AFL-CIO voted proudly and enthusiastically to endorse him for a second term," Trumka added.

The announcement came as labor leaders met to discuss their election-year strategy. One of the top agenda items: the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Although the AFL-CIO has not taken an official position on the issue, labor leaders have signaled their displeasure with the president — and environmental groups — for stymieing construction they say will add important American jobs.

"Our unions have been steadfast supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that is truly 'shovel-ready' and a privately funded endeavor that would put significant numbers of American skilled craft professionals back to work under a project agreement that ensures safe and efficient construction," said Mark Ayers, president of the Building and Construction Trades Department, an AFL-CIO-affiliated group, in a statement. "Regrettably, both of these issues have now been usurped and transformed into political pawns, where political posturing supersedes the need to create sound public policy that benefits working Americans."

Trumka has also had his own high-profile battles with the president, abstaining from January's report from the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. The labor leader said the president's 27-member panel, of which he is a member, downplayed "the need for a proactive role for the U.S. government."

“I disagree that reforming our regulatory system and reducing the statutory corporate tax rate are crucial elements of ‘competitiveness’ for the United States going forward, nor does empirical evidence support the claim that significant net new job creation would result from such ‘reforms.’ And I believe strongly that the Jobs Council’s membership is simply too narrowly representative of our country to provide a balanced set of recommendations to the president in these critical areas," Trumka wrote in a statement.

But Trumka said Tuesday that Obama remained the better candidate for labor.

"President Obama honors the values of hard work, of mutual respect and of solving problems together — not every person for himself or herself. He believes that together we will get through the most challenging economic crisis in memory and restore opportunity for all. Each of the Republican presidential candidates, on the other hand, has pledged to uphold the special privileges of Wall Street and the 1 percent — privileges that have produced historic, economic inequality and drowned out the voices of working people in America," Trumka said.