- Associated Press - Monday, September 1, 2014

DETROIT (AP) - U.S. workers deserve a “fair share” of any improvement in corporate profits, Vice President Joe Biden told hundreds of Detroit-area union members Monday during the first of three Labor Day stops in the city.

A job is “about your dignity. It’s about your place in the community. … You can’t do that unless you get a fair wage,” Biden told the crowd gathered on the grounds of the former Tiger Stadium ahead of organized labor’s annual parade Monday.

He stuck with populist themes, criticizing corporate pay and companies that leave the U.S. for lower taxes.

Workers don’t want a handout, said Biden, adding: “Just give them a chance.”

Biden was preceded on the stage by labor leaders and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer and Gary Peters, the party’s nominee for U.S. Senate.

Schauer’s biggest applause came when he said he would repeal Michigan’s right to work law, which makes union membership voluntary. He called it “right to work for less,” meaning it could affect wages.

Marge Robinson, president of SEIU Healthcare Michigan, a union of health workers, said it’s time to “strike back” and put Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in the “unemployment line.”

Biden’s visit to Detroit on Labor Day was his second in three years. The annual event celebrates the achievements of Michigan’s working men and women and the state’s unions.

After the speech, Biden stopped at a Detroit coffee house, Great Lakes Roasting, for a coffee and a date bar. He gently stroked a baby’s head outdoors and talked to many college-age customers indoors.

He left a $5 tip after buying a few drinks for others, including Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

“I’m not going to drink it. I’m going to save it,” joked Alexis Zeidan, 22, after the vice president bought her latte.

Duggan later took Biden to a backyard barbecue on Detroit’s east side. Servers in white chef’s hats offered a buffet of ribs and side dishes while a brass quintet played.

In brief remarks, Biden said the psyche of America’s middle class, “kicked in the teeth” during the Great Recession, must turn toward the positive.

That means wanting to buy a house and send kids to college, he said.

“We’ve got a helluva lot more to do, man. … Go back to the old normal, 25 years ago. The old normal was pretty normal,” Biden said.

Biden’s staff invited reporters along but there was no opportunity to ask questions. He repeatedly praised the mayor, elected in 2013, but said nothing about how Detroit’s future could be shaped by bankruptcy, which would erase billions of dollars of debt. A historic trial in the case begins Tuesday.

Biden last participated in Labor Day events in Michigan in 2012.

He has been a “strong voice for working families,” said Metro Detroit AFL-CIO president Rick Blocker.

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Follow Ed White at https://twitter.com/edwhiteap

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