Speaking to a crowd at a campaign stop in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday, presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney took a swipe at both President Barack Obama and organized labor, saying the president "takes his marching orders" from unions that cost American jobs.
"Liberalism once taught that unions would ensure lasting prosperity for workers," Romney said at Lansing Community College. "Instead, they too often contributed to disappearing companies, disappearing industries and disappearing jobs. But like many politicians of the past, President Obama takes his marching orders from union bosses, rails against right-to-work states, fights to win union elections by eliminating the vote by secret ballot, and even denies an American company the right to build a factory in the American state of its choice."
The "marching orders" line would come as news to many of the country's union officials, plenty of whom feel the president hasn't publicly supported organized labor enough during his time in the White House. And as for Obama pushing to eliminate the secret ballot -- an apparent reference to the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill sponsored by Democrats and supported by Obama as a candidate -- the president ultimately wasn't as vocal on the issue as many had hoped.
Romney's remarks in Lansing continue a familiar line of attack he started against Obama and former GOP opponent Rick Santorum earlier in the primary season, painting himself as a pro-business conservative and his opponents as pushovers for organized labor. Romney has accused Obama of appointing "union stooges" to the National Labor Relations Board, the agency that enforces labor laws, and has hammered the president for the NLRB's complaint last year against Boeing -- the company that Romney was apparently referring to when he said Obama denied "an American company the right to build a factory."
That complaint was ultimately settled before a trial, and the Boeing factory that Romney mentioned Tuesday is now proceeding as planned. Nonetheless, the Boeing case will likely pop up again on the Romney campaign trail, as will other jabs at Obama and organized labor. The GOP contender has little to lose when it comes to criticizing unions: The AFL-CIO has already launched an online ad campaign painting him as "the candidate of the 1 percent," and the Teamsters union responded to his remarks on Tuesday by calling him a "vulture capitalist who closed factories."
Video of Romney's union remarks: