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Obama Seeks Labor Support for Economic, Health Care Policies


U.S. President Barack Obama is reaching out to organized labor as he seeks support for his economic and health care policies.

The president is waging an all-out campaign to win over union members. On Tuesday, he made back-to-back appearances in two states where unions have traditionally been strong: Ohio and Pennsylvania.

He went before leaders of America's largest labor federation, the AFL-CIO, at their national convention in Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania city that will host the G20 economic summit next week.

He said he wants to work with organized labor to heal the ailing economy.

"Whether we are in good economic times or bad economic times, labor is not the problem. Labor is part of the solution," Mr. Obama said.

The AFL-CIO is one of the biggest boosters of the president's plan to reform the health-care system in the United States. And in his speech, Mr. Obama sought to further energize the labor movement.

"When are we going to say enough is enough? How many more workers have to lose their [health insurance] coverage? How many more families have to go into the red [fall deep into debt] for a sick loved one? How much longer do we have to wait? It cannot wait!" Mr. Obama said.

Earlier in the day, the president visited a sprawling General Motors plant in northeastern Ohio, an area that has been hard hit by the economic recession.

Until recently, it was the scene of massive layoffs. But now, the plant is starting to come back to life as a major manufacturer of small, energy efficient cars.

The president told workers at the plant that they have reason to be proud.

"You are doing your part to move us forward and make sure that the high quality, well engineered, safe and fuel-efficient cars of the future will be built where they always have been - right here in Ohio, right here across the Midwest, right here in America," he said.

But President Obama acknowledged anxieties remain among those who depend on the American auto industry for their livelihood.

Marisol Gonzales was one of several workers who discussed their concerns in private with the president.

"It has been really scary. I was laid-off from work for five months. I just came back to work three weeks ago," Gonzales said.

Unemployment in the communities around the plant is 15.6 percent, much higher than the current national average of 9.7 percent. At the Lordstown plant, about 150 workers were recently recalled, and 1,000 more are expected to be back on the job soon.

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