President Obama spoke to the United Auto Workers about the choice he made to to bet on American workers and America’s auto industry – and why he knew he couldn’t follow Mitt Romney’s advice and “let Detroit go bankrupt.”
These jobs are worth more than just a paycheck. They’re a source of pride. They’re a ticket to a middle class life. They make it possible to own a home, to raise kids and send them to college, to retire. These companies are worth more than just the cars they build. They’re a symbol of American innovation; the source of our manufacturing might. And if that’s not worth fighting for, what is?
I’ve got to admit, it’s been funny to watch some of these politicians completely rewrite history now that you’re back on your feet. These are the folks who said if we went forward with our plan to rescue Detroit, “you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.” Now they’re saying they were right all along. Or worse, they’re saying that the problem is that you, the workers, made out like bandits in all of this; that saving the American auto industry was just about paying back unions. Really? Even by the standards of this town, that’s a load of you-know-what. About 700,000 retirees saw a reduction in the health care benefits they had earned. Many of you saw hours reduced, or pay and wages scaled back. You gave up some of your rights as workers. Promises were made to you over the years that you gave up for the sake and survival of this industry, its workers, and their families. You want to talk about values? Hard work – that’s a value. Looking out for one another – that’s a value. The idea that we’re all in it together – that I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper – that is a value.
But they’re still talking about you as if you’re some greedy special interest that needs to be beaten. Since when are hardworking men and women special interests? Since when is the idea that we look out for each other a bad thing? To borrow a line from our old friend Ted Kennedy: what is it about working men and women they find so offensive?
We will not settle for a country where a few people do really well, and everyone else struggles to get by. We’re fighting for an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules. We will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt, and phony profits. We’re fighting for an economy that’s built to last – one built on things like education, energy, manufacturing things the rest of the world wants to buy, and restoring the values that made this country great: Hard work. Fair play. The opportunity to make it if you try. And the responsibility to reach back and help someone else make it, too.
That’s who we are. That’s what we believe in.
When our assembly lines grind to a halt, we work together and we get them going again. Don’t forget I got my start standing with working folks who’d lost jobs and hope when nearby steel plants closed down, because I didn’t like the idea that they didn’t have anybody to fight for them. That still drives me today. So I’ll promise you this: as long as you’ve got an ounce of fight left in you, I’ll have a ton of fight left in me. And we’re going to keep fighting, right now, to make our economy stronger; to put our friends and neighbors back to work faster; to give our children opportunity even greater than what we knew; to make sure the United States of America remains the greatest nation on Earth.