Topics: House of Representatives

Obama again compares GOP to striking workers who should be fired

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Beltway Confidential,Congress,Sean Higgins,Labor unions,Barack Obama,House of Representatives,Supreme Court,Labor,Republican Party,Analysis,AFL-CIO,Government Shutdown

President Obama again compared Republicans in Congress to workers going on strike, telling reporters Tuesday that GOP lawmakers had no more right to shut down the government than factory workers had to walk off their jobs.

The president made similar remarks at an event in Rockville, Md., on Thursday. He even referenced that event in his remarks Tuesday.

Both times, he compared GOP lawmakers to hypothetical striking workers. He argued those workers would be rightfully fired if they tried to shut down a plant to extract concessions from management.

In each case, Obama seemed unaware that the worker activity he was describing was a classic organized labor strike, a federally protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act. The law was signed by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1935 and is considered one of the era's major liberal victories.

The comments Tuesday did differ from the ones he made Thursday in one key respect. This time, he compared Republicans to workers engaged in a strike that involves breaking equipment and "burn[ing] down the plant."

Such a strike could result in state officials prosecuting the people involved in the destruction. Federal prosecution would be limited, though. The Supreme Court's 1973 Enmons ruling exempted union violence from federal anti-extortion laws.

Obama may have been trying to differentiate a regular, legal strike from the GOP's actions in his remarks Tuesday. Or he may have been associating any worker strike with violence.

The president did not elaborate and took no further questions at the press conference. A White House spokesman did not respond to a request for clarification.

Obama's comments annoyed AFL-CIO spokesman Josh Goldstein, who tweeted: "He's really using this analogy again?" The AFL-CIO has been a major supporter of the president.

The comments were made in response to the very last question Obama granted a reporter Tuesday. The question involved whether he would agree to GOP short-term funding bills. Obama said:

They are aware of the fact that I am not budging when it comes to the full faith and credit of the United States. That that has to be dealt with. That you don't pay a ransom. You don't provide concessions for Congress doing its job and America paying its bills.

And I think most people understand that. I was at a small business the other day, talking to a bunch of workers and I said: "When you are at the plant, when you are in the middle of your job, do you ever say to your boss: 'You know what? Unless I get a raise right now and more vacation pay, I am going to just shut down the plant. I am not going to walk off the job, I am going to break the equipment.' How do you think that would go?" They all thought they would be fired. I think most of us think that.

There is nothing wrong with asking for a raise or asking for more time off, but you cannot burn down the plant or your office if you don't get your way. Well, the same thing is true here. And I think most Americans understand that.

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