CINCINNATI — Cincinnati's AFL-CIO is so well known for its annual Labor Day Picnic at Coney Island that it's attracted a steady stream of speakers from the Obama administration to promote economic recovery plans.
The president spoke to thousands of union members and their families in 2009. Vice-President Joe Biden addressed the crowd in 2011. On Monday, it was Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, who has only been on the job 41 days.
He promised to make his department one of opportunity and hope.
"Every day we will be focused on jobs, jobs, jobs, opportunity, opportunity, opportunity, skills, skills, skills, partnership, partnership, partnership," he said. "You've led here in Ohio and across America to build a better bargain for the middle class, to make sure that our children here in the front row and the front rows of Ohio and across America will have those opportunities."
Perez said the economic is slowly and steadily improving, but acknowledged that President Obama knows the pace has increased.
"We need to create more opportunity and he has a formula for creating more opportunity," the secretary said. "It's called investing in human capital, investing in skills, investing in infrastructure, helping to build more roads, helping to build more bridges."
Among those listening to the remarks was Tom Moore, a member of UAW Local 64, and an employee of GE Aviation in Evendale.
Moore knows all about a roller coaster economy. He was laid off and rehired three times from GE and said the experience really opened his eyes.
"The first job I had paid $9 an hour. I have to drive 42 miles to Dayton to do that," he said. "I was making probably $18 an hour at the time."
That's one of the reasons Moore is so pro-union.
"I think there should be more unions in this country. I think there are more people that should be represented by unions," he said. "Union jobs are jobs that really help people keep their work place safe and give them all the things they need to be safe and pay a good competitive wage."
He wanted to hear Perez talk more about that issue and helping restore unions toward the power the experienced in the 1960's. It didn't happen.
"We're all in this together. We can't fight yesterday's battles. We need to focus on today's and tomorrow's challenges and that's what I saw in my visiting here today," Perez said. "When we get together as a collective, when we come together and work with each other, instead of focusing on each other, we can get so much more done."
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