Biden honors labor unions, touts economic agenda in White House remarks

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 9:39 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 8, 2021 at 11:51 AM CDT
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(Gray News) - President Joe Biden delivered remarks Wednesday from the White House in recognition of labor unions, saying “ when unions win, workers across the board win.”

The president weaved the discussion on the work unions have historically done with his administration’s work so far and overall economic plan. He said in the economy they are building, “everybody is mad at me” because employers are having to compete for workers, and raising wages, instead of workers competing for a scarce number of jobs.

“My measure of economic success is how families like mine growing up, working families busting their neck, how they are doing,” Biden said. “Whether they have a little breathing room, whether they have a job that delivers some dignity, a paycheck they can support a family on.”

He compared his measure of success with the previous administration’s, with President Donald Trump regularly using the stock market as evidence of his economic achievements. Republicans have criticized Biden’s American Rescue Plan, signed by Biden in March, with stifling people’s return to work amid the pandemic, as part of the plan included an extension of a federal supplement to unemployment payments.

Biden credited unions with helping to grow wages and establish the middle class post-World War II. But he said workers had “been getting cut out of the deal for too long a time” since the late ‘70s, with wages not rising relative to the increase in production.

“Along came 1979, and everything began to change,” he said. “Productivity in the country has grown almost four times faster than pay since 1979. That means workers have been given much more to their employers’ bottom line than they have gotten back in their paychecks.”

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh also attended the briefing in the East Room, along with members of different labor unions. A moment of silence was held for essential workers who have died during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who died in August.

On Monday, the president spent part of his Labor Day visiting with a chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in his home state of Delaware. Biden handed out sandwiches, spoke with members and took photos.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill touted by Biden and passed by the Senate includes new spending on roads and bridges, broadband internet, water pipes and other public works systems, the Associated Press reported.

Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending package also is being negotiated with members of Congress, as part of Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda.

The outline includes new programs for tuition-free pre-kindergarten and community college, paid family leave and a Civilian Climate Corps whose workers would tackle environmental projects. Millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally would have a new chance for citizenship, and there would be financial incentives for states to adopt more labor-friendly laws.

GOP lawmakers have been solidly opposed to the $3.5 trillion package being worked on, saying the proposals would waste money, raise economy-wounding taxes, fuel inflation and codify far-left dictates that would harm Americans.

Copyright 2021 Gray Media Group, Inc. The Associated Press contributed to the report. All rights reserved.