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Updated On: Mar 22, 2009

Biden to AFL-CIO: Employee Free Choice Act Key to Rebuilding Middle Class

by James Parks, Mar 5, 2009

Photo credit: Charlotte Southern  
  Vice President Joe Biden met with the AFL-CIO Executive Council today in Miami, where he reiterated the administration’s support for the Employee Free Choice Act, saying, “If a union is what you want, a union you’re entitled to have.”  

Vice President Joe Biden told the AFL-CIO Executive Council today that returning our economy to health means restoring the basic right to join a union and bargain collectively. And the way to do that is by passing the Employee Free Choice Act.

He quoted President Obama saying: ‘”I don’t buy the argument that providing workers with collective bargaining rights somehow weakens the economy or worsens the business environment.”

If you’ve got workers who have a decent pay and benefits, they also are customers for your business. So let me add to that and say that I have a simple, basic belief, one that we’re going to work hard to put into action:  If a union is what you want, a union you’re entitled to have.

The vice president quoted AFL-CIO President John Sweeney’s recent remarks in his column expressing basic truths that should guide the AFL-CIO in 2009:

We can’t fix the economy by hurting workers. Rescuing the economy will require investments in jobs, infrastructure, health care. When you’re in a deep hole, you need a long ladder. Rebuilding our broken economy gives us the opportunity to get it right and reward workers. Progressive, pro-family, pro-worker candidates won. So isn’t it time that we have progressive, pro-worker, pro-family priorities that win, too?

Click here to read the entire Sweeney column.

Biden, who heads the White House Task Force on the Middle Class, told the council the Obama administration is dedicated to rebuilding the nation’s middle class.

You can’t have a strong middle class without a strong labor movement. We will judge the success or failure of our administration at the end of our four years, based on whether or not the standard of living of the middle class has increased or not. That’s the bottom-line measure. And guess what. Neither one of us believes it can get better without you getting stronger.

The people Teddy Roosevelt used to call the “doers of deeds”—the people who teach our children, protect our neighborhoods, protect our homes. The people who staff our hospitals, who work on the line—on the lines that a few are working on these days. The people who are our nation’s heart and soul, and I would add, our nation’s spine. They are the spine of the nation. 

For too long, Biden said, we’ve failed to have a White House that puts families front and center in our economic policies. That’s why the Obama economic recovery program focuses on jobs, he said, and the administration is pushing for real health care reform. He also said the Obama-Biden team would never have won without the support of working families.

Biden’s visit to the Executive Council follows a two-day visit from Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who participated in a town hall forum on Sunday and met with the union leaders Monday.

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