Labor chief blasts conservatives for using the economy to divide workers

"There are forces in our country that are working hard to convert justifiable anger about an economy that only seems to work for a few of us into racist and homophobic hate and violence directed at our President and heroes like Congressman John Lewis," he told an audience at the Institute of Politics at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. "Most of all, those forces of hate seek to divide working people -- to turn our anger against each other."

The union highlighted the recent arrest of a man who was supposedly prodded by Fox news commentators to make death threats against Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif).

"[If] you care about defending our country against the apostles of hate, you need to be part of the fight to rebuild a sustainable, high wage economy built on good jobs," Trumka said, adding, "We have to begin the conversation by talking about jobs, the 11 million missing jobs behind our unemployment rate of 9.7 percent."

Trumka called on the audience to support legislation that expands infrastructure spending and creates opportunities for green jobs. Many Republicans in Congress have opposed these initiatives. 

He also called for supporting the Free Choice Act, a bill that eases the process for unionizing workers. Several Republicans oppose this bill. 

"President Obama said in his inaugural address, 'The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act -- not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth,'" Trumka said. "Now is the time to make good on these words."

Creating jobs legislation is expected to be the primary focus for lawmakers when they return to Washington next week after the Easter recess.