On this Labor Day weekend, the topic of Labor Day was hardly mentioned on the Sunday shows, which were of course dominated by Republicans - as is par for the course week after week as to who the networks decide to bring on the air to frame the political debates for the upcoming week. One exception was CNN's State of the Union where Candy Crowley talked to the Teamsters President Jim Hoffa about his take on what we need to do to solve the unemployment problem in America.
Hoffa would like to see something akin to a WPA program, and for President Obama to call out these so-called American companies for their patriotism for hiring cheap labor overseas rather than putting Americans to work and for sitting on hordes of cash instead of putting that money back into the economy.
Transcript via CNN:
CROWLEY: Here to talk about what unions want for the economy and from President Obama, Jim Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a union with 1.4 million members, I think I have that right.
So you have met with the president recently. You're going to see him again tomorrow on the sort of traditional Labor Day Detroit event. What you have told him that you want to see in a jobs bill?
HOFFA: We want a bold plan. Labor wants a bold program that's going to rebuild America.
CROWLEY: Does that mean something expensive? Usually when people say, oh, I want a bold plan, it means something that pours a lot of money.
HOFFA: The answer is, it's going to challenge America. I mean, so far what we've done hasn't worked. We're still at 9 percent. So it's not working. We need a bold plan. We have to look what happened with Irene. Look, we have to rebuild our roads, you know, basically our dams, our highways, everything has got to be redone.
You know, our schools, we have got to start that. We need a WPA- type program. But most of all, what I think he has got to do is to challenge business. You know, this is not something that -- you know, labor needs everybody to be in the game.
And what is happening is everybody is saying, what is Obama going to do? And what obligation does American business have? They are sitting on trillions of dollars right now. They're not spending money. We have lost 8 million jobs since '08, and we have got to start challenging them to get into the game.
So another faction of what he should be doing is putting in some type of a tax incentive to get them to spend money to get off the sidelines, get into the game and start spending some of that money here in America and put America back to work.
It can't be done just by the federal government. It has got to be done by all of us. And they have got to put aside labels to say Republican, Democrat. This is an American problem. And all of us can get together to solve this problem.
So we have got to start spending money here and instead of building that next factory in Mexico, build it here.
CROWLEY: Well, I want to talk about trade deals, because the president also wants a couple of free trade deals that I know you are opposed to. But so what you are talking about is perhaps a tax credit for businesses for every person they hire.
CROWLEY: I don't know if just heard, but Senator Jim DeMint said, you know, if they are going to hire someone anyway, sure, they will take the 5,000, but it's not going to induce businesses to hire, because what they really see and what they really fear is the uncertainty of what health care is going to cost them, what they really fear is regulation that they don't understand, how much bureaucracy they're going to have to build in to their business and how much that will cost.
Would you -- do you accept that as a premise? Or do you think businesses are sitting simply on money, waiting for what?
HOFFA: I think businesses are sitting on money. Look at Apple. They have $76 billion in their checking account. And they're spending it.
CROWLEY: Which they are allowed to have.
HOFFA: But they are not doing anything with it. And instead of investing here, everything they do is in China or is in Asia somewhere. And the answer, look at Honda. Honda is building $1 billion plant, and they want to build it in Mexico. This is on the drawing board right now.
CROWLEY: It's cheaper there.
HOFFA: Why isn't it -- well, we know that. But don't they have an obligation to America to build it in America, to put people to work here instead of in Mexico? That's what I believe.
You know, this is really -- I think the president should challenge the patriotism of these American corporations that are sitting on the sidelines saying, why do we have high unemployment but I am not going to hire anybody? You know, they have an obligation just like the federal government, just like Obama. We have all got to get into the game. And I don't see that happening. So the trillions and billions of dollars that they have on the sidelines, they have money, Pfizer and General Electric, they have trillions of dollars overseas, let's start repatriating that money. Let's start a program to get America going again.
The problem in America is not that we don't have enough money. We have got more money than any other country in the world. The problem is American businesses are not spending it and not getting it in the game. That's how we are going to get America going again.
CROWLEY: I'm hearing tweets across the universe here because -- I want to go back. Are you questioning the patriotism of Apple for sitting on money rather than hiring?
HOFFA: Yes, I am.
CROWLEY: Are you?
HOFFA: Yes, I am. What is it with a company that makes -- and they sell most of their products here in the United States. I mean, they're the biggest -- Apple, you have got Apple Stores everywhere else.
They have been sitting on that kind of money and every time they do something, they do it in China, they do it somewhere else. There's something wrong with that. Don't they have an obligation?
CROWLEY: They would tell you that the high price of labor and the high cost of health care and the high cost of environmental -- you know, drove them out of the country.
HOFFA: I don't believe that at all. You know, we have companies here that make a lot of money like UPS. We have a number of great companies here that are functioning here that are union, Sikorsky, and they are doing very, very well.
You can do it here. But the answer is, you have to have the incentive. And so many companies like Mr. Coffee and all of these other companies that have closed and moved to Mexico, they are wrong. They are unpatriotic.
We have got to turn this around and say, hey, we are an American company, we owe an obligation to America, let's put America back to work.
CROWLEY: As you know, your counterpart at the AFL-CIO has suggested that perhaps the AFL-CIO would not be quite so focused on the re-election of the president but instead start sort of a 24/7 help for its members and getting them politicized, and perhaps local leaders.
Are you happy enough with President Obama, who has done a lot of things, including allowing Mexican trucks in what appears to be a pilot program across the border, which you oppose, he is pushing for at least three free trade agreements, which you oppose, are you happy enough with him to fully invest in his re-election?
HOFFA: We are going to have to. President Obama, we don't agree with all of his policies. There are a number of things that we don't agree with. But overall he has done a good job.
Don't forget, he took over the worst economy in 80 years when he took over in '09. We had the crash of '08. We lost 8 million jobs since then. It's -- you know, he's going to have a very difficult time turning this around.
When the alternatives are Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, it makes it real easy to make this decision.
CROWLEY: So you -- basically it's better than what you see coming down the pike or...
HOFFA: Those people are anti-union, anti-worker. They don't believe in what I believe in. And I don't think that we have a choice here. Because if you hear what they talk about, they talk about basically, you know, no taxes on business, cutting unemployment, getting rid of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid.
When you cut through all of the rhetoric, that's where you end up. And that's not the American -- what America wants and that's not what the Teamsters want. CROWLEY: Essentially if you ask a tea party member, most of them, what they stand for, they would say smaller government, lower taxes, less federal spending, less regulation. Do you think that there are no members of the Teamsters or of unions in general that believe in that?
CROWLEY: Is that such a horrid...
HOFFA: I think when you explain it to them -- I'm going to say there aren't some Republicans in the Teamsters, I mean obviously there are, it's a big union, there a lot of people, a lot ideas in the Teamsters union, but when you cut through it all and you start telling them, you know do you want somebody that will cut Social Security -- do you want your Social Security?
If you put it on that basis, they understand I want those things, those are the things I've worked for, those are the things I need and that's what I expect of America. When you do it that way, and cut through this idea, the rhetoric that they have, the Tea Party does, then people realize what is at stake here.
And we see what they have done in Wisconsin and Ohio. Once they get in, what's the first thing they do? They go after collective bargaining for workers. That's the first thing they do. They have tax cuts for the corporations, both in Wisconsin and in Ohio, that's the first thing they do.
So you kind of see where they are going. And when you explain that to people to say that's where they are at and that's where we're at, I think most people will go with Obama.
CROWLEY: Teamsters president Jim Hoffa, thank you so much for coming by.
HOFFA: Great to be here.