DETROIT (AP) Union members had mixed reactions to President Bush”s appearance at the Michigan Teamsters Labor Day picnic.
Bush was greeted with cheers and a few boos at as he stepped on the red-white-and-blue-draped podium. He acknowledged that some thought it was risky to invite a Republican to speak at a union Labor Day picnic.
In his brief speech, Bush told the crowd the economy must grow, which is why he rebated tax money to Americans.
“This is a Labor Day where we can”t celebrate a booming economy,” Bush said. He also praised Teamsters President James P. Hoffa, who wasn”t at the picnic.
Gordon Adams, a newspaper driver with Teamsters Local 372, said it was “disappointing” that Bush was at the union”s picnic. “It”s an embarrassment for him to be here,” Adams said.
But others were pleased. “For a Democrat, I”m quite impressed,” said John Evanoff Jr., a member of Teamsters Local 299 of Detroit. “I want to shake the man”s hand. I respect the man for coming here.”
A few dozen people protested outside the union picnic, some holding placards with such slogans as “Bush Hurts Social Security.” The protesters included Detroit City Councilwoman Maryann Mahaffey, who described the group as members of various unions. She had to lay down her placard to get inside the picnic.
“I think a lot of the rank and file who are here (at the picnic) are not Bush supporters,” she said.
After his speech, Bush and First Lady Laura Bush posed for photographs with well-wishers and signed autographs for more than 10 minutes. Several union members indicated they were pleased with his appearance.
Denise Smith, with Teamsters Local 229, said she”s not a Bush supporter, “but I”m very impressed. He”s very down to earth. We”re willing to give him a try.”
Teamster Robert Reddig, of Detroit, said he looked to Bush”s speech to offer hope for working families. “A regular working man can”t make it without a few people working in his family,” said Reddig, a crane mechanic and 17-year Teamster who voted for Bush.
Teamsters spokesman Rob Black said the fact Bush accepted the union”s invitation shows he”s reaching out to labor.
The Teamsters helped Bush pass his energy package in the House on the belief that the plan will produce jobs. But the two part ways on several issues, including the president”s push to give Mexican trucks broad access to U.S. roads.
State Attorney General Jennifer Granholm, a Democratic candidate for Michigan governor, said she hoped union members had questions for Bush.
“Let our trade policies be fair and not a race to the bottom. Ask him about that,” she told the crowd during a brief appearance before Bush arrived.
Bush attended the picnic after an appearance in Kaukana, Wis., where he gave a speech before several hundred unionized carpenters.