"We're going to see if congressional Republicans will put country before party," Obama told about 13,000 people in a Labor Day speech in downtown Detroit.
"We'll give them a plan, and then we'll say, 'Do you want to create jobs? … Show us what you got.'
"The time for Washington games is over. The time for action is now. No more manufactured crises. No more games. Now is not the time for the people you sent to Washington to worry about their jobs; now is the time for them to worry about your jobs," he said, drawing applause.
The speech offered a preview, but few specifics, on the jobs plan Obama is to present before a joint session of Congress Thursday.
He noted roads and bridges across the country need repair and said more than 1 million unemployed construction workers are "ready to get dirty right now."
"There is work to be done and there are workers ready to do it," he said. "Labor is on board. Business is on board. We just need Congress to get on board. Let's put America back to work."
The president also used the speech to pledge his support for unions after some friction between him and labor in recent days and took aim at those he said were trying to erode the labor movement.
"When I hear some of these folks trying to take collective bargaining rights away, trying to pass so-called right-to-work laws for private-sector workers -- that really mean the right to work for less and less and less -- when I hear some of this talk, I know this is not about economics. This is about politics.
"I want everybody here to know as long as I'm in the White House, I'm going to stand up for collective bargaining," he said.
Obama said "we've got a lot more work to do to recover fully from this recession," adding, "But I'm not satisfied just to get back to where we were before the recession; we've got to fully restore the middle class in America. And America cannot have a strong, growing economy without a strong, growing middle class and without a strong labor movement."
Pointing to the rebound of U.S. automakers, he said, "I've seen Detroit prove the cynics and the naysayers wrong."
While awaiting his speech, some union workers made clear their priority.
"Jobs, jobs and more jobs," Al Calhoun of Pontiac, the president of United Steelworkers Local 690 at auto parts-maker Flexible Products, told the Detroit Free Press.