President Biden on Wednesday celebrated labor unions by underscoring the important role they will play in implementing his $3.5 trillion expansion of the social safety net.
Unions would also benefit from the proposal, Mr. Biden said at a White House ceremony, saying the massive spending bill would make child care more affordable, provide paid family leave and increase wages.
“You all fought for all of this,” Mr. Biden said to roaring applause.
Unions will play a critical role in creating the jobs that would be spawned from by the spending plan, the president said, emphasizing that its funds for training workers for high-demand jobs and give them a tax cut for day care and child care.
The White House ceremony included Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler and Jocelyn Cruces, a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union who survived a near-fatal case of COVID-19.
About 60 guests, largely representing labor unions, also participated in the event.
The event highlighted the close relationship Mr. Biden has built with the unions in his 49 years in Washington as a senator, vice president and now president. He has repeatedly pledged to create the “most pro-union administration” in U.S. history.
In April, he created a White House task force to review ways to improve the strength of unions when bargaining with employers.
He has championed the Protecting the Right to Organize or PRO Act, which would give workers more power to organize and penalize companies that attempt to block those efforts.
“Every day we remember that America wasn’t built by Wall Street,” Mr. Biden told the union crowd.”American was built by the middle class and the unions built the middle class. You gave workers a voice.”
Congress is expected to take up the $3.5 trillion spending package when they return next week from summer recess. Republicans and some moderate Democrats have bristled at the proposal’s price tag.
Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia have spoken out against the proposal’s cost. Progressive lawmakers are vowing to fight any cuts to the plan.
However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday refused to rule out lowering the final amount of the package, which includes a host of anti-poverty, education, health care and climate change programs.
The White House event was Mr. Biden‘s second celebration of labor unions this week. On Monday, he observed Labor Day with an unannounced trip to an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union hall near his home in Wilmington, Delaware.
Mr. Biden brought sandwiches from a sandwich shop to union members and gave a brief speech. At one point, he declared that unions “brung me to the dance” in politics.