The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, September 14, 2012

Biden to Labor Day union crowd: ‘We view you as the solution’

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

DETROIT – One of the themes Republicans supporting Mitt Romney for president are using this election year asks the question, “are you better off than you were four years ago?”

In a speech to about 3,500 union members and supporters after the city’s annual Labor Day parade, Vice President Joe Biden thundered, “You want to know whether we are better off? I’ve got a little bumper sticker for you – Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive!”

Speaking on a temporary platform set up aside the Book-Cadillac Hotel on closed-to-traffic Michigan Avenue, Biden played to his union audience and repeatedly referenced the contributions of organized labor, and the comeback of the domestic auto industry in the four years under President Obama.  He said that much of the country is in fact, better off than it was in the depths of a near-depression in the closing months of the Bush Administration.

“Ladies and gentlemen, you, organized labor, are one of the reasons why this country is coming back,” Biden said. “Folks, let me make something clear and say it to the press: America is better off today than they left us when they left.”

Prominent in the crowd were UAW members, who took wage cuts at GM and Chrysler to help their employers survive. Biden said to them: “Before the sacrifices you made, the UAW made, but for all those sacrifices, all the GM plants would have been closed. You’re the reason the auto plants are back. You sacrificed to keep your companies open.”

Romney was nowhere near Detroit or Michigan on Labor Day. In February, he famously kicked off his presidential campaign in his home state by going out of his way to kick the labor movement. That came after his famous op-ed from 2008 in theNew York Times under the headline, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” which urged an infusion of private capital to the struggling domestic automakers, rather than the use of federal taxpayer dollars. Romney may have been the only person in the country who believed that any private financing was available at that time.

“I call it crony capitalism,” Romney said in a speech in west Michigan. “And that’s the path that he (President Obama) has taken. He’s gotten hundreds of millions of dollars from labor bosses for his campaign. And so he’s paying them back in every way he knows how. One way of course was giving General Motors and Chrysler to the UAW. I saw that (UAW President) Bob King said that I don’t care about the auto industry. I’m sorry Mr. King, I care very deeply about the auto industry. I want to make sure we have good jobs not just for a few weeks but for many, many years. I want Michigan to come back in a big way.

“I’ve taken on union bosses before and I’m happy to take them on again, because I happen to believe that you can protect the interests of the American taxpayers and protect a great industry like automobiles without having to give into the UAW and I sure won’t.”

Romney in Michigan this year also continued to express support for right-to-work legislation and cutting the corporate tax rate as part of his first initiatives if elected. “Unions ask for too much and you end up killing the company,” Romney said, adding: “I’ll fight for right-to-work laws, and I’m going to make sure we don’t force unions on people.”

Biden told the Detroit Labor Day crowd: “These guys don’t get it. Right to work means the right to work for less. As long as we’re here, it will not happen.”

Romney would have been booed off the platform in Detroit had he shown up, and indeed, boos were heard whenever his name or that of running mate Paul Ryan were mentioned. “We don’t need your boos, we need your votes,” Biden told the crowd.

He also took the opportunity to admonish Romney and Ryan for standing up for corporate interests rather than for working people. Romney “called the president of the United States out of touch,” Biden said. “Well, how many of you all have a Swiss bank account? How much do you have invested in the Cayman Islands? This guy won’t even let you see his tax returns.  We are better off. If they (Romney/Ryan) win, people are in trouble. This is not your father’s Republican Party.”

Biden said the saving and resurgence of the U.S. auto industry by the Obama Administration not only saved one million jobs, but has led to the reinvestment of $23 billion in plant modernizations – for which the building trades have been a major beneficiary.

“Romney and Ryan don’t think that much about you guys,” he told the crowd. “They view you, the working women and men of America as the problem. We view you as the solution. Look folks, we know who built this country and we know who is going to rebuild it. It’s you. Instead of vilifying you, we should be thanking you. We owe you.”

VICE PRESIDENT Joe Biden addresses a Labor Day crowd of union members and supporters next to the Book-Cadillac Hotel in Detroit.