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Chicago labor leader finds working men and women "really frustrated"

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- When labor leaders are in Chicago, they hold a Labor Day rally to mark the occasion.Now that they're in Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention, Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez will deliver a state of labor address and video at Monday's Illinois delegation breakfast that won't sugarcoat the harsh economic realities many union members are facing.

Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez said the video and his speech will outline the mounting frustration among working men and women - either because they don't have jobs or because the jobs they do have don't pay as much as they used to.

Ramirez acknowledged Sunday that some of that frustration is directed at President Obama, but not as much as you think.

"Folks have a lot of room for understanding. They know that he's trying to do stuff," Ramirez told the Chicago Sun-Times after leaving an Illinois delegation party Sunday evening hosted by House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago.)

"They still are frustrated. There may be some folks out there in labor who are really frustrated with the pace of the recovery. But when you sit down and take a good hard look at it, you know that you just can pin it on one person. It's very difficult, especially when you have other elements on the other side of the aisle, with the intent to stop and derail.

"We haven't passed a surface transportation bill in 10 years. Those are the kinds of jobs that carry a five- to seven multiplier elsewhere in the economy.

Asked if that frustration among working men and women would translate into votes for Republican Mitt Romney, Ramirez said, "I don't know if they're willing to go that far. That's an assumption that the Republicans are making, and that Mitt Romney is making. I just don't think they're going to go that far.

"If you heard anything form last week's convention, it's not about working men and women. They know when they hear those things, what are we really looking into with these folks. What are they looking to do to us, not for us," he said.

Ramirez put the onus of ginning up that enthusiasm on Obama and his political team.

"That's going to have to be the magic sauce or the secret sauce they're going to have to cook up and get people there. We know the direction the Republicans want to go," he said. "The Democrats are going to have to put on some tutorials this week and some education this week of the electorate."

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