Philly Union Members Rally with Biden on Labor Day

President Joe Biden rallied with hundreds of Philadelphia area union members at a Labor Day Rally in South Philadelphia on Monday, Sept. 5, 2023. (Photo: Sean Kitchen)

By Sean Kitchen

September 5, 2023

Three of Biden’s major legislative accomplishments from his first term—the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act—have been major boons to union members across the country.

Hundreds of union members gathered at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 facility in Philadelphia on Monday morning to celebrate Labor Day with President Joe Biden.

Biden, who promised to be the most pro-labor president in US history, spoke at a rally prior to Monday’s Tri-State Labor Day Parade hosted by the Philadelphia AFL-CIO.

“I’ve been saying this since I ran the first time. Let me say it loud and clear. Wall Street didn’t build America, but the middle class built America,” Biden told the crowd of union members. “Unions built the middle class.”

Biden’s love affair with the City of Brotherly Love highlights the role Pennsylvania will play as one of the top swing states in the 2024 election. Biden launched his reelection campaign with union members and labor leaders from around the region and country at the Philadelphia Convention Center in June.

“I wouldn’t have been elected to the United States Senate in the first place if it were not for Philadelphia,” Biden said.

Monday’s visit was the president’s seventh trip to the city in the past year and the 14th trip to Philadelphia since taking office in Jan. 2021.

US Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) spoke of the importance of Monday’s Labor Day rally with Biden.

“It’s really not just a day to have a celebration. I think it’s about affirming the dignity and the value of the work that’s done by all these members of the AFL-CIO across the country,” Casey said.

Casey, who is also up for reelection in 2024, painted a stark contrast between Democrats like he and Biden and the opponents they’ll face next year.

“We’ve got to do two things. Make sure that folks know what President Biden and Democrats have done to lift up workers and make sure everything we’ve done – have labor at the table,” Casey said.

“And secondly to point out what the other side is trying to do to them. Everyday you have assaults on the men and women of labor from corporate America supported by the Republican Party,” he added. “And we’re in a battle. This isn’t just to celebrate it. It’s a day to be ready for a battle. I’m happy to be here and support the men and women of labor.”

Three of Biden’s major legislative accomplishments from his first term—the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act—have been major boons to union members across the country.

Biden took the time to speak about the Butch Lewis Act, a measure included in the American Rescue Plan that protects the pensions for millions of union workers nationwide. The law has already saved the pensions of thousands of workers and retirees in Pennsylvania.


“We did something else that mattered a whole lot to folks in this parking lot. We passed the Butch Lewis Act, which protected pensions from millions of union workers,” Biden said.

He called it one of the most significant achievements for union workers and retirees in over 50 years.

“Two to three million union workers, through no fault of their own, after paying their pension for years, face painful cuts and benefits,” the president said. “They were counting on retirement, they’re going to [be] left high and dry. All [the] companies they worked for didn’t hold up their end of the bargain and finance their end of the bargain. We just couldn’t let that happen.”

Billions of dollars from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act have also poured into Pennsylvania to improve the state’s infrastructure, boost its manufacturing sector, and create new opportunities for workers.

Pennsylvania recently received $1.16 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to bring high-speed broadband to underserved areas of the commonwealth. Gov. Josh Shapiro is also using $400 million in funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act to create the Commonwealth Workforce Transformation Program, a first in the nation workforce development program.

Sheryl Lee Ralph, the star of the Emmy Award winning TV show Abbott Elementary, which is set in Philadelphia, attended Monday’s Labor Day rally with her husband, State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia). She took the time to take photos with members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and striking Screen Actors Guild members.

“Labor Day is so much more than a day off,” Ralph said in an interview.

“If anything, we have learned after Covid is that workers are essential,” she added. “All of us that have a job to do, all of us that show up against the odds, all of us that put in the time to get the job done.

“We know in this climate that workers deserve more. Workers deserve better. We need to get paid what we deserve. All workers. Workers should not be working two or three jobs and still [be] in poverty.”

 

Author

  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

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