SEIU’s Andy Stern on Jobs: ‘I Hope It’s the Beginning of a New Trend’

By Gorman Gorman

Dec 4, 2009 2:53pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: A jobs report that was significantly better than economists expected is cause for cautious optimism, a key White House ally said on ABCNews.com’s “Top Line” today.

“I hope it’s the beginning of a new trend,” Andy Stern, the president of the Service Employees International Union, told us. “I think it’s a little too early to tell. I mean, we have a lot of money that’s now hitting because of the stimulus. We’ve had Wall Street, you know, do remarkably well. But I would hate to say that we’re anywhere near proclaiming victory and moving on.”

Stern was at the White House yesterday for President Obama’s jobs summit, and the SEIU has offered a range of ideas to spur job creation. He suggested that lawmakers need to be more “thoughtful” in how they spend money in any new attempt at stimulating the economy.

“I don’t think we just throw money at the wall and hope it works,” he said. “I appreciate we were trying to solve a crisis — arson, really, that it was burning the economy down. The president had to do something and they did almost everything they could imagine. Now it has to be thoughtful.”

Key to job creation, he said, is a health care bill. While the SEIU has strongly supported a public option to compete with private insurers, Stern indicated that including a “trigger” that would only establish a public entity down the road, if promised savings don’t materialize, might be acceptable to his union.

“I think it weakens the opportunity to hold down the cost,” Stern said of the trigger concept, the subject of ongoing negotiations in the Senate. “Is it better than doing nothing? Absolutely. Would it be great to add some more subsidies if we’re going to have a trigger? For sure. I mean, the issue really is, will people be able to afford this health care? Will small businesses be able to afford it? And putting some kind of cap on these insurance companies’ behavior is absolutely essential.”

Union leaders are pressing to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, a controversial measure that would make it far easier for workforces to unionize, as part of a jobs package. Asked whether created jobs need to be union jobs for the recovery to be judged a success, he responded:

“No, no, not at all.  I think the real question is are these jobs going to pay enough money so you can own a home and raise your family, and do what my parents and grandparents were able to do — live the American dream?”

Watch the full interview with Andy Stern of the SEIU HERE.

We also checked in with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos about a week where, in his words, there were “a lot of relaxed exhales for the White House.” Watch that portion of “Top Line” HERE.

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