Obama: We need a Democrat Who Doesn’t “Choke on the Word ‘Union’”

Sep 17, 2007 7:29pm

ABC News’ Jonathan Greenberger reports: Sen. Barack Obama told union members gathered today at a conference in Washington that they have to be wary of nominating a Democratic candidate who isn’t a true union supporter.

"It’s time we had a Democratic nominee after the primary who doesn’t choke saying the word ‘union,’" said Obama at the Service Employees International Union’s political action conference. "It’s time we had a Democratic president who said the word ‘union’ once in a while."

Obama’s comment appeared to be a swipe at former President Clinton, whose leadership in passing the North American Free Trade Agreement caused a rift with organized labor. Sen. John Kerry and Vice President Al Gore, the Democrats’ last two nominees for president, both had strong ties to this traditionally Democratic constituency.

Obama has had his own troubles with organized labor as a presidential candidate. Key union endorsements have recently been granted to rival candidates John Edwards, Chris Dodd, and Hillary Clinton – not Obama. And after speaking before a gathering of the International Association of Fire Fighters in March, members of the union were widely quoted giving Obama only lukewarm reviews.

When asked to explain Obama’s remarks today, his campaign did not comment.

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