Stung by a bitter battle over the U.S. debt, President Barack Obama shifted his focus towards putting Americans back to work Tuesday, holding an "urgent" meeting with unions frustrated over the slow pace of job creation.
Obama held a closed-door meeting with leaders of the AFL-CIO, the country's main labor union umbrella organization, and was expected to hear complaints for shrinking from his demand to include tax revenues as part of the debt deal.
"This morning's meeting with the general board of the AFL-CIO was a conversation about the urgent need to focus on job-creating policies that will propel working people and our economy forward," union spokeswoman Alison Omens said.
"Working people are desperate to hear how we're going to focus on the real economy and the jobs crisis, and President Obama conveyed his own feeling of urgency around dealing with the jobs crisis," she added.
A union official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that several AFL-CIO affiliate unions have been "critical of Obama" over the debt deal, which raises the limit on U.S. borrowing and enacts at least $2.1 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade.
"The labor movement thinks that it's a bad deal for working people" who will "take it on the chin," the official said.
At the weekend climax of debt negotiations, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka blasted Republican leaders, who insisted that tax revenue not be part of any debt reduction deal, for "acting like dictators -- putting their political interests before the good of the country."
"They're willing to throw working families and the working poor overboard just to preserve tax cuts for billionaires and hedge fund managers," said Trumka, who was in the meeting.
The 1.6-million-member AFSCME union also took the debt ceiling deal to task, accusing the anti-tax, pro-small government Tea Party movement of holding "the nation hostage in order to advance an extreme ideology."
"At the least, it (the debt deal) will slow economic recovery and impose more joblessness, wage cuts and hardship on America's working families," AFSCME president Gerald McEntee said.
Obama's team has struggled to crank up the employment engine, and figures released last month showed no improvement jobs-wise for a second month in a row. The data, which showed 14.1 million Americans still out of work two years after the 2008-2009 recession, was seen as bad news for the White House as Republican opponents challenge Obama's economic record ahead of elections next year.
With federal, state and local governments slashing payrolls to address budget deficits, May and June saw extremely slow growth and a reluctance on the part of businesses, many of which have been piling up cash reserves, to expand their workforces.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011