“If you’re in a burrow, you want John with you, man,” he said. “There is no bigger and louder voice for working people in this state than John.”
Katie Meyer / WHY
During a stop in Philadelphia for the AFL-CIO’s annual constitutional convention, President Joe Biden made a plea for November’s midterm elections: Pennsylvanians concerned about labor issues should elect Lt. Governor John Fetterman in the US Senate.
Biden said he spoke to Fetterman, who is recovering from a stroke, via Zoom on Monday. “If you’re in a burrow, you want John with you, man,” he said. “There is no bigger and louder voice for working people in this state than John.”
Fetterman’s campaign says he has his own hopes of working for Biden and Congress. Reached for comment, a spokesperson said the Democratic nominee wants to see the PRO Act pass – a bill that would make it easier to organize, which is stalled in the Senate – and that “we should increase production in all sectors, increase capacity and supply to lower prices.
The upcoming midterm reviews also loomed over the rest of Biden’s speech.
Pennsylvania’s election is the Democrats’ likeliest move to clinch a U.S. Senate seat and free themselves from some of the gridlock that has plagued Biden’s agenda. But the election is also clouded by rising prices for food, gasoline and other basic necessities — inflation that has hurt Biden’s poll numbers.
In response, Biden tried to highlight the ways in which his administration is trying to strengthen unions and help workers, even as he takes the heat from rising prices.
“When you succeed, everyone else succeeds,” he said. “If the investment bankers – they’re not all bad guys, they’re not bad – but if they went on strike, not much would happen. But guess what? Guess what? I say this to my friend, if the IBEW goes on strike, everything stops.
Like Fetterman, Biden has touted his support for the PRO Act, as well as creating jobs by updating infrastructure and investing in green energy projects – saying his bipartisan infrastructure law was “more that rebuilding our infrastructure is about rebuilding the middle class”.
The president said his administration was working globally to release oil and grain reserves. He also floated the idea that cost savings for workers could come from other areas, like insulin price caps, federally funded child care – part of the Build Back plan Better stalled – and tax credits to help people pay to make their homes more energy efficient.
He said that given the presidency and congressional majorities, Republicans would support ending or drastically curtailing federal programs — referencing a fringe plan by Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott, who chairs the Republican National Senate Committee, to end almost all federal laws after five years. if Congress does not extend them.
And he repeatedly criticized the previous administration for its tax cuts that largely benefited the very wealthy compared to the middle class, and blamed Republicans for its failure to roll them back. Some members of his own party also resisted the pushback.
“Look, we can do all of this,” he said. “All I’m asking is that the biggest corporations and the wealthiest Americans start paying their fair share of taxes. I am deadly serious.
The speech also comes as the administration could be on the verge of a clash with unions over how to tackle inflation.
Recently, Biden reportedly considered easing some Donald Trump-era tariffs in an effort to drive down prices — specifically, exempting certain consumer goods from tariffs against China, according to Axios.
The unions have balked at this idea. Earlier this month, United Steelworkers President Thomas Conway went public with his position, filing a comment with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on behalf of the Labor Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations and Trade Policy, urging administration to extend all tariffs against China.
“Too many American companies have failed to take the necessary steps to address the threat posed by CCP policies,” he wrote. “Many continue to outsource production, research and development, undermining US competitiveness and national security interests. … Our government must act in the national interest to strengthen our economy for the future.
Despite any potential political disagreements, Biden received a rousing reception from the assembled workers and organized labor advocates at the Philadelphia Convention Center.
When introducing him, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler called Biden “the most pro-union president in U.S. history.”