President Biden started his reelection campaign at the Philadelphia Convention Center on Saturday with union members and labor leaders.
Saturday was Biden’s first official campaign event, a sign of how important he believes Pennsylvania is to his quest for a second term—and the working people of Pennsylvania are to his agenda—even though he officially announced his bid for reelection in April.
Biden went to the site of the collapse of Interstate 95 before getting to the Convention Center. An oil tanker crashed and exploded last Sunday, causing the highway section to collapse. In his promise, Biden stated that the highway would be ready for use in the coming weeks.
Union workers chanted, “We want Joe,” as Biden entered the stage. Biden emphasized the accomplishments of his first term in his speech, which included combating climate change and creating union-paying jobs while also responding to the pandemic, passing the American Rescue Plan, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the American Rescue Plan.
The president also took the time to criticize Wall Street’s bankers and the growing billionaire class.
“Wall Street didn’t build America. You did,” Biden declared to the audience. “I’ve been saying this for a long time. Long before I ran for president, the middle class built this country, and you built the middle class … If the investment bankers in this country went on strike tomorrow, no one in this place would notice. No, think about this in the literal sense. If this room didn’t show up for work tomorrow, the whole country would come to a grinding halt.”
Biden discussed the alarming rise in income inequality toward the end of his speech.
“We used to have 750 billionaires in America. Now they tell me it’s about a thousand because of the last administration,” he said. “They pay a lower tax rate than school teachers, firefighters, and anyone in this room.
Throughout his first term, Biden has pledged to be the most pro-labor president in US history. One of his first signs of support for unions was the appointment of Marty Walsh, the former mayor of Boston and leader of Laborers’ Local 223, as Secretary of Labor. After more than 40 years, Walsh was the first labor leader to hold that position.
The American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act, two of Biden’s most significant legislative achievements from his first term, significantly benefited union members nationwide.
The pensions of hundreds of thousands of workers nationwide, including an estimated 1,300 in Pennsylvania, were saved thanks to funding from the American Rescue Plan. Meanwhile, the Inflation Reduction Act includes provisions for workforce development, apprenticeship programs, and prevailing wages.
In March, Biden gave his budget address at the Finishing Trades Institute in Philadelphia, which received funding from his infrastructure law.
He told District Council 21 members, “I don’t know if you know this or not, the only reason I’m standing here is because when we needed help, you helped me… I’m president because of you.”
“Since taking office, President Biden has stood shoulder to shoulder with working people,” said Philadelphia AFL-CIO President Daniel P. Bauder in a statement about Biden’s pro-union stances. His policies created millions of union jobs that supported families and helped shape our economy from the middle up.
In states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, Biden must keep the “Blue Wall” and union votes to win reelection.
Blue Compass Strategies, a progressive research firm, says that in 2000, union voters made up 30% of the electorate in Pennsylvania, and Al Gore got 65% of those votes. In 2020, the commonwealth’s total share of union voters fell to 18%, and exit polls showed that Biden and Trump won the union vote.
In contrast to the AP VoteCast, the exit poll conducted by CNN showed Biden winning the union vote by 52-47% and Trump by 51-49%.
Those numbers went up during the midterm elections in 2022. Union voters favored Sen. Now. Governor Josh Shapiro is 60-38%, and John Fetterman is 52-45%.
The broad decline in Democrats’ support among workers and union membership did not happen naturally. Right-wing-funded think tanks and legislators have launched a barrage of attacks against unions in those three crucial swing states over the past two decades to limit their ability to negotiate better pay and benefits and limit their ability to vote in elections. The ability of unions to organize members and their political power were weakened by Right-to-Work laws.
Jeffrey Yass is Pennsylvania’s richest billionaire, with a net worth of $30 billion. He is also a rising GOP mega-donor and the driving force behind Pennsylvania’s anti-union movement. Spotlight PA reported that Yass has spent over $35 million on Pennsylvania politics alone since 2019 and over $60 million on federal candidates and political action committees.
“Part of this massive coalition of labor in America that is coming together to support Joe Biden and Kamala Harris early for 2024 to show how important it is that we keep someone in the White House who understands labor and will put workers first,” Shanna Danielson, an art teacher from York County and member of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, stated that she traveled to Philadelphia.
Gilbert Johnson, a Philadelphian who has been a member of Glaziers Local 252 for all of his life, stated that the significance of Biden rallying alongside union members “shows that he will support unions.” that he has supported them and that he will continue to support unions to provide American workers with well-paying jobs.
Johnson responded, “A union member has the backing and support of the union, and you can support your family and the great benefits you get out of it—the skill you are taught through the union and the great pay.” when asked what it meant to be a union member.