Mr. Obama, speaking to a ticket-only crowd of mostly auto workers and local dignitaries, detoured only slightly from his message about government policies and investments that encourage education, research, and infrastructure replacement.
“What we shouldn’t be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions,” Mr. Obama said to huge cheers inside the Detroit Diesel Corp. factory on Telegraph Road in Redford Township, a western Detroit suburb.
Mr. Obama visited the factory, an affiliate of Daimler Trucks North America LLC, to participate in the announcement of a $120 million investment to expand beyond the diesel engines and axles it makes to include transmissions and turbochargers. The expansion will add 115 “good, union jobs,” Mr. Obama said.
Standing outside the area cleared for the speech were rows of gleaming new truck engines.
“These so-called right-to-work laws, they don’t have to do with economics, they have to do with politics,” the Democratic President said. “It gives you the right to work for less money.”
He said Michigan employees were instrumental in reviving the auto industry.
A woman in the crowd shouted out, “Listen up, Snyder,” a reference to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. The governor said he supports the legislation that would abolish requirements that employees pay union dues as a condition of work.
The President was greeted on the tarmac of Detroit Metropolitan Airport by Mr. Snyder, along with U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.), Rep. John Dingell (D., Dearborn), and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.
Mr. Obama didn’t address the controversial comments of Detroit Councilman JoAnn Watson, who said last week that Mr. Obama should offer a bailout to financially troubled Detroit as a “quid pro quo” for the strong vote he got out of Detroit voters.
After the speech, another Detroit politician said Mr. Obama has other immediate priorities, but that Detroit needs a helping hand and should get it.
“The first order of business is to get past the fiscal cliff,” said state Rep. Fred Durhal, Jr., (D., Detroit), chairman of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus, and a candidate for mayor of Detroit. “I think that Detroit’s problems, as severe as they are, merit some discussion in the White House, but not at this point.”
But after that, “I think there should be some recognition that this is a major American city that is in trouble and if we can find a way to get some help for the city of Detroit on a national level, then of course that's welcome. I don’t think Detroit's entitled to it any more than any other city. But New York City didn’t go down the drain, and I don't think they will let Detroit go down the drain.”
The President's scolding of Michigan lawmakers over their right-to-work legislation was a hit with the workers.
“I agree with everything that he’s saying. That right to work is not a good thing for Michigan,” said Michael Riley, 66, of Southfield, Mich., who retired in 2007 after 43 years in the factory. He said he was never laid off for a single day.
Mr. Obama called on Congress to avoid the Jan. 1 fiscal cliff and pass a law extending tax cuts on family incomes below $250,000 a year. Republicans have been holding out to also extend the tax cuts to incomes above $250,000.
Contact Tom Troy at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 419-724-6058.