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In Detroit, President Obama says unions can help "fully restore the middle class"

Pete Souza
Official White House photo

Speaking to union members and supporters at a Labor Day rally in Detroit, President Obama says his biggest concern is to “fully restore” the country’s middle class.

The President will outline a jobs agenda to Congress on Thursday. He drew a disbelieving groan from the crowd when he said he still believes “both parties can work together.”

But Mr. Obama also said he “won’t wait around for” Republicans in Congress.

“We’re going to see if Congressional Republicans will put country before party. We’ll give ‘em a plan, and then we’ll say: do you want to create jobs? Then put our construction workers back to work re-building America.”

The President says he’ll urge spending on infrastructure, growing export markets, and renewing a payroll tax cut for workers.

Mr. Obama also praised labor unions, saying they made the American middle class possible, and can still help bring the country back to “shared prosperity.” The President is trying to shore up support among union members moving into the 2012 election.

He told the crowd his administration has reversed harmful decisions that undermined employee rights, and boosted protections for workers.

The President acknowledged that collective bargaining rights for public sector unions have been under attack in many states, but says those attacks are motivated more by politics than economics.

“And I want everybody here to know that as long as I’m in the White House, I’m gonna stand up for collective bargaining,” he added.

Mr. Obama says every American has the right to “a voice on the job,” whether “they’re a CEO in the corner office, or the janitor who cleans that office.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.