Valerie Jarrett on MSNBC 2/22/11

ANCHOR: To the west of where you are in Cleveland, in the Ohio state capital of Columbus, there are apparently protesters gathering to show their solidarity with the protesters in Wisconsin in fighting back against measures that would break unions. That would at least limit their collective bargaining rights. Where does the president stand on how you move forward out of this gridlock?

JARRETT: Well, obviously, the president said last week, he’s very supportive of unions. What’s going on in Wisconsin was going on all around our country is similar to the challenges we face at the federal government and what the president thinks is that we should sit together with the unions and work collaboratively. We’re all having to tighten our belts, and we’re all having to do more with less but we ought to be able to do that in a constructive, productive way that leads to a brighter tomorrow. The unions have a lot at stake. They represent terrific workforces around our country and we should really be engaging and working with them to solve the problems together.

ANCHOR: Do you think there is room for reform among unions? Especially among government unions we’ve seen it with the car industry. We have seen it with the airlines. That the promises that have been made in terms of pensions, in terms of retiree health care costs, those promises are not realistic.

JARRETT: Well, I think there’s always room for improvement. Everyone included at the state, local and federal level and in the private sector, are having to look at how we’re doing business and figuring out how to be more efficient and effective. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a meaningful role for unions and for collective bargaining. So I think it is a matter of sitting down at the table together and working constructively together as we face these difficult economic challenges. The president just announced his budget last week and said he had to make some tough decisions and make some cuts that in ordinary times, he wouldn’t have made. But we are in these really challenging times and we have to figure out how to get our deficit under control. State and local governments are facing similar challenges and it is really the way you meet those challenges and the president is encouraging constructive dialogue.