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Why Working Families and Our Unions Support Biden

meetjoebiden2.jpgAs media pundits have noted, Sen. Barack Obama‘s selection of Delaware Sen. Joe Biden adds many years of foreign policy experience to the ticket.

Less well-known is Biden’s long support for working families and their unions. America’s union movement, Biden has said, is

the only thing that keeps the barbarians at the gate.

But he doesn’t stop there.

There is a middle class in this country for one reason and only one reason: the union movement.

Biden recognizes that a five-letter word has too long been missing from the Democratic vocabulary: Union.

At an AFT presidential town hall with union members in July 2007, Biden bluntly stated that the next president of the United States better be able to utter the word "union," they better be able to say "union."

Not organized labor, not working men and women: "Union." Because we Democrats have been reluctant to use that word. And when we use it, we tend to only use it when we talk to you all. I use it at the Chamber of Commerce, I use it on the floor of the Senate, I use it when I speak to the AMA [American Medical Association]. This is the first time…we have a chance to build the union movement. Not stop the erosion, build a union movement.

In reiterating how unions built and maintained this nation’s middle class and how essential they are to the future prosperity of our nation, Biden goes beyond being a co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act, federal legislation that would level the playing field for workers seeking to join unions. He believes it. Strongly.

On issues from health care to jobs, Biden has a lifetime 85 percent voting record in favor of working family issues and 100 percent record in 2007, according to the AFL-CIO Congressional Voting Record. (Yep. His 2005 vote on the bankruptcy bill is one everyone has heard about and one we all regret. Less known is that Biden voted for an amendment to the bill that would have protected workers from losing vacation and severance pay when their employers declare bankruptcy. The amendment failed.)

In a few of his recent votes on jobs, wages and Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, Biden:

  • Voted for an economic stimulus package that would extend unemployment insurance.
  • Supported investing in America’s infrastructure.
  • Opposed Bush’s unfair tax cuts aimed at the very wealthy.
  • Voted to raise the minimum wage.
  • Voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
  • Voted to ensure prevailing wages and other protections for workers on federal projects.
  • Voted against privatizing jobs in Walter Reed and other federal facilities.
  • Supported investing in the energy industry to create jobs and lower energy costs.

Biden supports early childhood education, smaller classroom size and, as far as trade goes, Biden says:

There ain’t no such thing as free trade unless its fair trade, and that’s not what’s happening now.

On health care, Biden:

  • Supports a health care plan that offers everyone a chance at affordable, high-quality insurance.
  • Voted to allow Medicare to negotiate for lower-cost prescription drugs.
  • Voted to re-authorize and improve the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.
  • Voted against cutting Medicare and Medicaid.

Biden backs working family issues and is a strong champion of unions because, to him, it’s personal.

At a Fire Fighters convention last year, he described why, telling the Fire Fighters how first responders have often come to his aid. From the AFL-CIO Now blog:

Biden spent about 10 minutes quietly and very emotionally talking about the three personal life-saving experiences he and his family have had over the years with firefighters. The first involved a horrific car wreck in which his wife and daughter were killed but firefighters saved his two sons by using the jaws of life. Years later, when an aneurism nearly struck him down, his local fire ambulance rushed him from Delaware to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Recently, lightening struck his Maryland home and seven fire companies responded to the massive blaze.

As Biden said to more than 20,000 union members at an AFL-CIO presidential debate in Chicago last summer:

Where I stand is with you. That I promise.

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Tula Connell

Tula Connell