Obama Pushes Health Care Bill In Ohio, Pa.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
President Obama spoke to Wall Street's financial community on Monday. Yesterday, he had a different audience - autoworkers at a General Motors small car plant in Ohio and the big AFL-CIO convention in Pittsburgh. The president pointed to workers being called back by GM as a hopeful sign for the economy. And Mr. Obama said that a health care overhaul is a critical part of long term economic security. NPR's Don Gonyea reports.
DON GONYEA: The president is both defending his economic policies and pressing for a health care plan that has a tough road ahead in Congress. At the Lordstown plant, he cited the government aid General Motors got without using the words bailout or takeover. Instead, he spoke of the benefits workers are already seeing thanks to that and the cash for clunkers program.
President BARACK OBAMA: Because of the steps we've taken this plant is about to shift into high gear.
(Soundbite of applause and cheers)
GONYEA: He noted that Lordstown assembly went from three shifts in the summer of '08 down to one shift this year, but is now preparing to bring back more than 1,000 workers in a few weeks, to work on the line building the Chevy Cobalt small car.
President OBAMA: And next year this plant will begin production of the Chevy Cruze.
(Soundbite of applause)
A new car that will get more than 40 miles per gallon. I just sat in the car. I asked for the keys. They wouldn't give me the keys.
(Soundbite of laughter)
GONYEA: 42-year-old Marisola Gonzales(ph) was among a group of a dozen workers who sat down for a private discussion with the president at the plant.
Ms. MARISOLA GONZALES (General Motors plant worker): I feel really good about what the president has to say. You know, I think he realized how important the car industry is to the U.S.
GONYEA: But she also said Mr. Obama didn't sugarcoat his answer when he was asked about the prospects of bringing back to the U.S., the manufacture of all kinds of products that are now mostly built overseas.
Ms. GONZALES: He, you know, tried to make the point that some things can never be made in America and sold because the labor is so cheap in other countries, you know. Their way of life is so much different than ours. There's so, you know, lower standards, that some things can never be made in America.
GONYEA: But she said the president told them that what can be made in America should be and will be made in America.
From Ohio, the president flew to Pittsburgh and the AFL-CIO convention, where today Richard Trumka takes over for the retiring John Sweeney as the president of the nation's largest labor federation. Mr. Obama proudly called himself a friend of the house of labor as he spoke of the current difficult economic climate.
President OBAMA: So I know times are still tough for working people. I know too many people are still looking for work or worried they'll be the next ones let go. But the Recovery Act is making a difference. We've stopped our economic freefall.
GONYEA: On health care, polls show that Americans with coverage are concerned that they might not like changes that are made to the system. The president told this union audience that they're already making tradeoffs. They can't negotiate pay hikes, he said, because of the rising cost of their health plans.
President OBAMA: That's not just the fault of the employer. It's the fault of a broken health care system that's sucking up all the money. When are we going to stop it? When are we going to say enough is enough?
GONYEA: The president came here to fire up his political base. The labor movement was a key element of his election. Now, he hopes to harness it as he spends the fall fighting for the top item on his domestic agenda.
Don Gonyea, NPR News, Pittsburgh.
(Soundbite of music)
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