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Bush promises to work with unions

By John King
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- AFL-CIO President John Sweeney agreed to travel with President Bush to Chicago on Thursday for an event with airline workers after the president promised to work with organized labor and Congress on a legislative package to assist workers laid off or dislocated as a result of the terrorist attacks.

Disagreements over the scope of such a package remain.

Congressional Democrats are pushing a $3 billion package of aid that includes extended unemployment benefits, emergency health care coverage and job training funds.

Most GOP leaders favor a more modest package that would extend emergency health care benefits to airline workers who lost their jobs in the past two weeks.

"We wanted to show good faith," an administration official said when asked about the Sweeney invitation.

Asked if there was any agreement on a worker-assistance package, the official said, "I would steer you more to conversations, and a commitment to work together. There are disagreements, but the president appreciates both the economic issue and the goodwill shown of late and wanted to make clear he wanted to try to get something done here."

In and interview with CNN earlier Wednesday, just after Delta became the latest U.S. airline to announce layoffs, Sweeney said:

"The ripple effect is really staggering, and it goes far beyond the pilots and the flight attendants, and mechanics and reservation clerks, all of the suppliers, Boeing and GE, and all of the other services that depend on the airports and into the cities that are affected, with the hotel and restaurant workers as one example. And these numbers are staggering, and we bailed out the industry, it's time to provide some assistance to workers."


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