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While the relationship between President Obama‘s administration and labor has at times appeared strained, there have been significant steps made toward fulfilling campaign promises and the broader labor agenda, but there is plenty of unfinished business.

This was the theme of a special breakfast forum, “Labor Under Obama,” on Friday, Jan. 21, at the Murphy Institute, part of the CUNY School of Professional Studies.

The presentation and lively discussion were led by Bill Samuel, director of government affairs at AFL-CIO, and Anne Marie Lofaso, associate professor of law at West Virginia University College of Law.

Samuel’s presentation included an examination of labor’s relationship with the administration and what is likely to happen in the wake of the recent midterm elections, labor’s expectations and demands, and missed opportunities on the part of both labor and the government.

Lofaso offered a retrospective analysis of the government’s performance with regard to labor, how it has fared in terms of protecting worker rights and job security, the key appointments and interventions in the labor market, and legislative actions that have been of particular importance to unionization and to working people.

Lofaso said that although Obama missed many legislative opportunities, he has made excellent executive appointments that help labor. Further, she said, Obama’s less publicized actions show his support for labor.

Samuel praised Obama as the best educated president on labor the country has had, but he also pointed out that among the challenges that the president faces are some immovable objects on Capitol Hill on labor issues, such as the Free Choice Act.

Martin A. Mbugua is the Communications and Marketing Manager at the Murphy Institute, part of the CUNY School of Professional Studies. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Northeastern Political Science Association.

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