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Labor Groups Stage Pair Of Holiday Rallies

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As President Barack Obama gave a Labor Day speech in Detroit before thousands of union workers, related gatherings took place in downtown San Diego today.

The president gave a few hints at the job-creation plan he’s expected to propose to Congress on Thursday. Several hundred protestors lining Broadway had similar thoughts, with signs saying “Jobs Not Cuts,” and “Save the American Dream.”

Obama suggested that putting people to work repairing the nation’s infrastructure may be part of his proposal for reducing the nation’s high unemployment rate. At the rally in San Diego, some protestors evoked Frankin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration and Richard Nixon’s Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, or CETA, as models for today.

Anna Daniels is a retired librarian. She said her husband was employed through CETA when the couple first moved to San Diego 34 years ago.

"We need to jump-start the economy in a big way," Daniels said. "I mean WPA worked then. CETA worked. We know what works and we can do it again, but we need the political will and to stop the kind of grandstanding that’s going on in Congress. That’s pure politics and our country’s being scuttled."

Employers across the country added zero jobs in August. The official unemployment rate in San Diego is 10.5 percent.

At a separate rally in a Ralphs store nearby, local grocery workers kept up the pressure on supermarket owners to improve the healthcare benefits offered in a new contract.

About 150 grocery store workers and union supporters gave up a day at the beach to join the rally. The union representing more than 65,000 grocery workers in Southern California is threatening to strike unless owners of Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons supermarkets meet union demands for a new contract.

Denise Delio has worked as a general merchandise manager at Albertsons in La Costa for 22 years. Her husband is a meat cutter at the store. She said the healthcare benefits offered by store owners were unacceptable.

"If we don’t have our healthcare, we can’t afford to pay our rent, our mortgage," Delio said. "My husband’s on heart medication, he’s on a lot of different medications, so if we don’t get our healthcare, we can’t afford to pay for it and we’ll be on subsidized healthcare from the state."

Negotiations between store owners and union leaders are ongoing. A federal mediator was called in late last month in hopes of averting a strike.

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