Obama Addresses Workplace Issues in State of the Union Speech
President Barack Obama gave his annual State of the Union speech Tuesday night, speaking on a variety of topics from the cost of education to the strength of the U.S. military. At a few points during the speech, Obama focused on work and how the labor market has changed over the years. Here are four key quotes from his speech about work:
“It’s not too much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package for 30 years are sitting in this chamber.”
Obama was referring to the benefits that members of Congress (and perhaps the Supreme Court justices) receive, like a defined benefit pension plan and Congress’ above-average base salary of $174,000 per year. Companies don’t offer defined benefit pensions anymore, and wage growth has been largely stagnant, only recently beating inflation, according to the U.S Department of Labor. Obama went on to remark, “[For] folks in their 40s and 50s, saving for retirement or bouncing back from job loss has gotten a lot tougher.”
“It’s about filling the gaps in employer-based care so that when you lose a job, or you go back to school, or you strike out and launch that new business, you’ll still have coverage.”
Obama was referring to the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare. Before the passage of the law, which requires U.S. citizens to carry some form of health insurance, many workers would lose insurance after a job loss.
“The point is, I believe that in this new economy, workers and start-ups and small businesses need more of a voice, not less.”
In part due to the rise of small start-ups in the tech sector, the face of corporate America is changing. Obama may have been hinting that politicians in Washington are willing to work with sharing economy start-ups like Uber or Instacart (and perhaps the people who work for those companies) on regulatory issues.
“We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private sector job creation in history. More than 14 million new jobs, the strongest two years of job growth since the 1990s, an unemployment rate cut in half. Our auto industry just had its best year ever. That’s just part of a manufacturing surge that’s created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years.”
It’s true — a government report released Tuesday showed that nearly 3 million people quit a job in November, the largest number since April 2008. The labor market is increasingly turning toward employees, which might cause employee retention problems for some organizations.