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State Of Disunion: Businesses And Unions Give Their Opinions On President’s Speech

Following the State of the Union address Tuesday, business groups and labor unions voiced their opinions on how they thought the president did.

While the president mostly advocated for policies that unions agree with, such as the minimum wage, paid sick leave and immigration, he did get some praise from business groups for noting his support for free trade agreements.

“President Obama eloquently and forcefully advocated for working families throughout his State of the Union Address this evening,” AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka said in a statement.

“The President’s focus on raising wages through collective bargaining, better paying jobs, a fairer tax code, fair overtime rules, and expanded access to education and earned leave sent the right message at the right time,” Trumka continued. “So did his embrace of union apprentices and immigrants who want to achieve the American Dream.”

Rocio Saenz, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union, also praised the speech.

“Tonight, we applaud the president’s agenda and vision that at the core strives to strengthen all working families across the country,” Saenz declared.

Saenz continued, “The president’s agenda stands in sharp contrast to the Republican Congress’ show of contempt for 53 million Latinos during last week’s House vote when Republicans voted to deport immigrant children who have lived here all their lives and undo the little progress we’ve made to fix the immigration system.”

The Laborers’ International Union of North America said in a statement, “The half-million working men and women of LIUNA applaud the President’s State of the Union remarks calling on lawmakers to address income equality, particularly by speaking out for laws that strengthen unions and give workers a voice.”

The president received significant backlash from business groups concerned about the impact his proposals will have on companies and their employees.

The Employment Policies Institute criticized the president on his support for paid sick leave and raising the minimum wage, arguing that such policies will cost businesses money and cause many to lose their jobs.

“I think a lot of these policies, especially in a Republican controlled Congress, are dead on arrival,” Michael Saltsman, research director at EPI, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Saltsman argues that despite popular opinion, being against minimum wage increases is “actually a very empathetic position” because of the negative impact it could have on employment, especially for low-paid and low-skilled workers.

In a 2012 study, EPI found policies like the ones the president advocated for during his speech, when tested in cities like San Francisco, hurt the employees they intended to help.

Though unions were generally optimistic of the speech, they did reinforce their opposition to the president on trade.

“Our opposition to fast-tracked trade deals that are giant giveaways to big corporations must be resolute,” Trumka noted. “We can’t face the competitive challenge of China with a trade deal that fails to adequately address currency manipulation, climate change or that gives corporations rights that people don’t have.”

Though criticizing most of the speech, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Thomas J. Donohue, said in a statement, “The business community looks forward to working with both the administration and Congress to enact Trade Promotion Authority and complete historic trade deals across the Pacific and the Atlantic.

Jay Timmons, the president of the National Association of Manufacturers, said in a statement, “Manufacturers have long made the case for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and applaud the President’s call for swift action on TPA, which will enable manufacturers of all sizes to better access an $11 trillion global market.”

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