Barack promises to boost union organizers

Barack Obama spent Tuesday courting union workers and veterans, both important constituencies in Pennsylvania, which holds its Democratic primary next Tuesday. Obama, addressing the Building Trades National Legislative Conference in Washington, said, "Your voices will be heard."

The Illinois senator promised that if he's elected he will support union measures not backed by the Bush administration: the Employee Free Choice Act, giving unions more power to organize (by denying workers an NLRB-supervised secret-ballot unionization election); federal government use of "project labor agreements," and tax policies to discourage sending jobs overseas and reward the creation of U.S. jobs. He said federal infrastructure projects should use union laborers who were paid prevailing wages and good benefits.

At a meeting with veterans and military families later in Washington, Pa., Obama repeated promises to improve mental-health care and brain-injury treatment for veterans.

His rival Hillary Clinton on Tuesday laid out an ambitious agenda for the first 100 days of her presidency, if she's elected, that includes signing legislation that President Bush vetoed, seeking a moratorium on home foreclosures and beginning the process of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

Speaking at an American Society of Newspaper Editors luncheon in Washington, Clinton said that she would ask Congress to eliminate some of Bush's tax cuts -- replacing them with reductions targeting the middle class -- and press Canada and Mexico to renegotiate parts of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Clinton said she would start with bills that Bush had vetoed, including measures to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program and the use of embryonic stem cells for research.

Clinton told the editors that she would convene a meeting of mortgage lenders, banks, community organizations and regulators to negotiate an immediate freeze on foreclosures.

She vowed to restore ''fiscal sanity'' to Washington by cutting taxes for middle-class families by $100 billion a year and ending tax breaks for oil companies, drug companies, insurance companies and Wall Street firms, saving $55 billion annually.

On climate change, Clinton said she would convene a summit within her first 100 days to negotiate an international climate-change treaty.

On Iraq, she vowed to convene a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other Pentagon officials to begin drawing up plans to withdraw troops starting within 60 days of her inauguration.

She also promised to close the detention center at the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which is housing terrorism suspects.


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