Fired up and in campaign form, President Obama delivered what appeared to be a pre-midterm stump speech on Monday to labor activists in Wisconsin, the state that became the labor movement’s political epicenter in 2011.
“Every gray hair is worth it,” he told the crowd, of pressing for economic policies such as a higher minimum wage in the face of GOP resistance.
“The American economy and American workers are better off than when I took office,” he said.
PHOTOS: Barack Obama Through the Years
Obama spoke at Laborfest 2014, a Labor Day rally in Henry Maier Festival Park. Supporters standing behind him and out in the audience wore green AFSCME and purple SEIU t-shirts.
It was a typical economic stump speech of the kind Obama has delivered over and over in American cities this year, with calls for higher wages, criticism of Republicans for blocking them, and pleas for a better life for working-class Americans.
But today, the president was more expressly political, exhorting the crowd to organize and vote Democratic in this fall’s midterm elections.
“I’d also want more Democrats looking out for me, I’m just saying,” Obama said, after telling the crowd that if he were a worker looking for better wages and safety protections, he’d join a union.
Shouting and appearing visibly riled, Obama reminded the crowd of union and Democratic-Party victories in securing a 40-hour workweek and supporting Medicare and Social Security.
Earlier in the day, Vice President Joe Biden delivered a similarly political, and similarly populist speech to a Labor Day rally hosted by union organizers in Detroit.
The president traveled to Wisconsin for this one appearance and was to return to the White House before departing Tuesday for Estonia and this week’s NATO summit in Wales.