President Biden aggressively pushed his cozy ties to organized labor in a speech Tuesday at the AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, hoping his long-standing relationship with unions will reverse forecasts of doom for the Democrats in November’s midterms.
Mr. Biden highlighted his efforts to advance labor, noting that the late AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka called him the most “pro-union president in history.”
“I promised you I would be, and I commit to you as long as I have this job, I will remain that,” Mr. Biden said to thunderous applause.
“Wall Street didn’t build this country. The middle class built this country. And unions built the middle class,” Mr. Biden said emphatically. “I’m not joking. Without unions, there would be no middle class.”
Over the past few weeks, Mr. Biden has been highlighting his allegiance to unions, a relationship forged over decades in Washington. He credits labor unions for launching his political career, often telling organizers, “You all brought me to the dance.”
Mr. Biden‘s speech was his second touting organized labor in the past five days. During a trip out west last week, Mr. Biden praised union workers at the Port of Los Angeles for their efforts to alleviate the supply chain crisis.
Mr. Biden‘s flashing of his union credentials is part of his political calculus that appealing to working-class Americans may offset blue-collar families’ anger over soaring inflation and record-high gas prices. Their frustration is expected to cost Democrats the House and Senate in the November midterms.
In recent weeks, Mr. Biden has told major businesses, including Amazon and Starbucks, that he will back efforts for their workers to unionize. He also hosted young labor leaders at the White House, later releasing a pro-union video.
Mr. Biden bragged that Labor Secretary Marty Walsh is a former union leader and enthusiastically endorsed the Pro-Act, legislation that would make it easier for unions to organize.
“I’m not just saying it to be pro-union. I’m saying it because I’m pro-American,” Mr. Biden said of his support for the Pro-Act.
Republicans have historically opposed unionizing, but many rank-and-file members bucked leadership and supported President Trump in the 2020 election.
Mr. Biden won 57% of union households nationwide, but Mr. Trump won 40%, the best showing for a Republican candidate among labor in decades.
In Pennsylvania, Mr. Trump won 53% of union households in 2020, while Mr. Biden won 46%. Mr. Trump won 57% of union households in Ohio, compared with 43% for Mr. Biden.
Since taking office, there have been some rifts between Mr. Biden and organized labor officials, even as the president takes pains not to cross them.
A coalition of labor unions last week filed an official comment with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative urging Mr. Biden to keep in place all of Mr. Trump’s tariffs on roughly $300 billion worth of Chinese goods.
The Biden administration is weighing waiving some of the tariffs to help ease inflation, which is at a 40-year high. It is one of the few mechanisms the administration has to help reduce inflation, even if the impact is marginal.
Labor unions say the tariffs are necessary to “act in the national interest to strengthen our economy for the future.”
Mr. Biden on Tuesday sought to contrast his economic plan with proposals offered by Republicans, arguing his ideas will change the dynamic of middle-class families.
“We’ve laid out concrete plans for families to save money not only on prescription drugs and utility bills, but on rent and mortgage costs,” he said. “Republicans have it all backwards. Their plan literally calls for increasing taxes on middle-class and working people and cutting taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans.”