Obama to unions: Nation ‘owes you a debt of gratitude’

LOS ANGELES — President Obama pushed organizing rights on Monday in video message to the AFL-CIO Convention.

Obama was originally scheduled to speak to the convention in person but canceled late last week to deal with the Syria crisis.

“Thank you for all you have done for decades on behalf of the working men and women of America. This country owes you a debt of gratitude for your efforts to make sure that everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead, whether they are in a union or not,” Obama said.

The president also said he wanted to share “my commitment to that fight.” He touted his success, with labor’s help, of having members confirmed to the National Labor Relations Board.

“We need to keep fighting for a true right to organize where workers are free from discrimination and intimidation on the job. And that’s why, with your help, I pushed to get National Labor Relations Board back to full strength in a decade,” Obama said.

Labor has been a political ally of the president, and campaigned for his reelection last year while turning out the vote in key swing states.

Obama talked of the need for workplace protections in his taped message, including a safety rule against harmful silica dust. Unions cheered his administration when it proposed the rule last month after it sat under review at the White House for more than two years.

“And to keep fighting for a safe workplace where your health isn’t endangered by exposure to things like silica dust or hazardous chemicals because no one should have to risk their life to make a living,” Obama said.

“Thanks to folks like your president Rich Trumka, our new Labor Secretary Tom Perez and all the men and women of the AFL-CIO, I’m confident we will keep rebuilding an economy that grows not from the top down but from the middle out. An economy that gives everyone who works hard the chance to get ahead,” Obama said.