Skip to main content

Obama's speech revs up Harley worker

By Dan Lothian and Shawna Shepherd, CNN
  • Harley-Davidson worker Henry Haggler was among thousands eager to hear Obama's message
  • Haggler has worked at a Harley plant in Wisconsin for almost 16 years
  • His assessment of Obama and the economy comes in an automotive analogy
  • "I wouldn't want (a car) with four bad tires and a bad engine .. that's what he got"

Milwaukee, Wisconsin (CNN) -- When President Barack Obama rolled out a $50-billion six-year infrastructure proposal Monday, thousands who gathered in Milwaukee were eager to hear his message.

Among them was Henry Haggler. He's worked at a Harley-Davidson plant in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, for almost 16 years.

Haggler has seen cutbacks and layoffs, and now worries about how much more the company will ask his United Steelworkers Union to give up. "We're trying to negotiate a new contract, and their thing is they're trying to whipsaw us," he said, adding "we have a lot of hard working union people, and they're Americans, OK, and we sacrificed a lot."

Like other companies in this tough economy, his Harley-Davidson plant has had to make painful adjustments.

Haggler, who was born and raised in Milwaukee, appears to have an emotional connection to Harley-Davidson. He waxes on about what the company's founding fathers would have wanted.

But when it comes to what he wanted from Obama before the president's speech, he got to the point. "I think he should make a spirited speech about where we are right now and that things are going to turn around,"

Obama was careful about making too many promises, admitting to the crowd he has no "silver bullet," and that, "It will take more time than any of us wants, to dig out of the hole created by this economic crisis."

Nonetheless, the Harley worker, whose union pride runs deep in his veins, gave Obama the benefit of the doubt.

"I think he's done enough," Haggler said. "Look at the sacrifices that he had to make. I would love to have a car but I sure wouldn't want it with four bad tires and a bad engine, but that's what he got."