DETROIT – Politics is often in lockstep with the parades and picnics that take place here every year on Labor Day, and this year’s event was no different.
Vice President Joe Biden was on hand to fire up a crowd of a several thousand marchers before this year’s Labor Day Parade on Sept. 1, exhorting them to keep fighting for union-friendly candidates. “I still know how to say the word ‘union,'” Biden said. “Your unions are the reason every worker has what they have today. The 40-hour work week. The Fair Labor Standards Act. Minimum wage. These rights wouldn’t exist for any workers if it wasn’t for unions. Unions built the middle class as we know it.”
Speaking on the grounds of the old Tiger Stadium at Michigan and Trumbull – now the kickoff point for the annual Detroit Labor Day Parade – Biden was the featured speaker among a host of public officials. Other speakers included Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer, retiring U.S. Senator Carl Levin, and the Democrat seeking to replace him, Gary Peters.
Biden’s visit wasn’t, shall we say, fully appreciated by many parade participants. His arrival, which prompted blocked off streets, unexpectedly delayed the scheduled 9 a.m. start of the parade by two hours, creating grumbling among the rank and file. The delay also allowed a storm front to move in during the course of the parade, thoroughly drenching marchers.
But the vice president’s intentions were good. “Labor has had my back my entire career,” he said, “and it’s good to be with folks who brought me to the dance.”
His remarks were tailored to remind union members that there is one political party that doesn’t have their interests at heart. It was Republican lawmakers who would have let the domestic auto industry go bankrupt, and who have demonized public union workers and auto workers for being paid too much as the cause of the nation’s economic ills. “This isn’t your father’s Republican Party,” Biden said. “Somehow they said you’re the reason for the recession. Somehow it was because of you that companies were moving overseas, and they said the reason was that you wanted a decent living wage. There has been a war on labor, and you have been the only counterbalancing weight. As you declined, so did the U.S. standard of living.”
Biden said there used to be a “basic bargain” between workers and company owners. When a company made money, workers used to get a share of the profits. Now conservative sympathies have shifted to doing whatever makes corporations, and corporate leaders, happy. “The new Republican Party,” as Biden called them, instead only sees companies that are over-taxed, and a Wall Street that is over-regulated. “Over-regulated?” Biden shouted, “what the hell are you talking about!”
He said there is no GOP ridicule of the new practice of “corporate inversions,” where companies – despite years of enjoying access to American infrastructure, public support and tax breaks – move their headquarters overseas in order to get a tax break.
“Why in God’s name does someone who makes tens of millions managing a hedge fund pay only 15 percent in taxes, while the average GM worker who makes $55,000 a year pays 25 percent in taxes?” Biden asked. “We have to restore the bargain that began here in Detroit with organized labor. If we don’t America is in real trouble.”
Biden concluded: “Just give the American people a chance. Because when you give them a chance they never let America down.”