"We want him to fight harder," said James Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Up to now, he added, the president is "not fighting enough."
While labor isn't about to back a Republican in the election, Hoffa echoed the AFL-CIO's frustration that labor doesn't seem to be on the president's mind. Instead, he said, the president has been too willing to cave into GOP demands on spending and deficit cuts.
In an interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Hoffa said: "I think he's got to draw a line in the sand. But to constantly keep backing up, and backing up, we don't want him to do that. We want him to fight and we will rally behind him. And the president also has to rally the base, come back to labor. You know when he was out there talking to the farmers [on this month's Midwest bus tour], I had to laugh at that. Do you think the farmers are going to vote for the him? I mean, I don't think so. When he's standing out in that corn field—I love the president—I don't know what he's thinking out there. He's not going to get any votes out there. I guess it was good television." [Check out editorial cartoons about the economy.]
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka made similar remarks Wednesday and added that he didn't think the union would play it's usual big role at the Democratic convention to reelect Obama if the president doesn't offer a bold jobs program.
"If they don't have a jobs program I think we'd be better to use our money doing other things," he said.
Trumka also said the president's fight for jobs will be a make-or-break moment for how hard labor works in his reelection. "This is going to be a moment when history and our members are going to judge him and they are going to be making an opinion. And if he puts all of his emphasis and focus on jobs creation, it's going give them one picture," said Trumka. "And if he continues to do little nibbly things around the end that aren't going to make a difference and aren't going to solve a problem, that will give another picture."
On MSNBC [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036789/#44285417], Hoffa said that labor won't vote Republican. "We're going to be backing the president but we want the president to fight harder. We don't him to be rolled over," said Hoffa. [Read: Seven Ways Obama Can Gain Credibility on Jobs.]
During the last debt ceiling vote, he said the president disappointed him. "He basically got stared down and he blinked."
On the jobs program, which the GOP is expected to fight, Hoffa said that the president has got to give up his wishes for a compromise. "He's eminently reasonable and the president, he's a very smart man. He thinks, 'If I'm reasonable,' but he's dealing with unreasonable people that don't want to deal," said Hoffa. "They don't want to work with him, they want to crash him." [Check out political cartoons about the deficit and debt.]