"And when our middle class succeeds -- that's when the United States of America succeeds," Obama said during the AFL-CIO convention in Pittsburgh. "That's what we're fighting for."
Obama said he wants to build a future "where the success of all of us is built on the success of each of us. ... That's the future the AFL-CIO wants to build. That's the future the American people want to build."
Facing a tanking economy, Obama said the White House and Congress "acted boldly and swiftly to pass an unprecedented economic recovery act. ... We're putting Americans to work across this country rebuilding crumbling roads and bridges and waterways with the largest investment in our infrastructure since Eisenhower created the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s."
He said the United States must build a foundation for future prosperity by creating jobs of the future, reforming healthcare, protecting consumers from abuse, letting financial markets operate "fairly and freely," and ensuring the country "never experience another crisis like this again."
"That's how we'll grow our great American middle class," he said.
The president also said he backed the Employee Free Choice Act "because if a majority of workers want a union, they should get a union."
In earlier remarks to the AFL-CIO, U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., said he has worked with other senators to produce "an employees choice bill which will meet labor's objectives," The Hill reported.
"I believe before the year is out ... that there will be passage of an Employees Free Choice Act, which will be totally satisfactory to labor," Specter said.
During his comments on healthcare reform, Obama repeated much of the message he's been delivering since his address before a joint session of Congress, including his desire for a public option to be part of the healthcare bill.
Incoming AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said his union will not back a healthcare reform bill unless it has a public option.