President Joe Biden addresses the AFL-CIO convention, Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Biden
President Joe Biden addresses the AFL-CIO convention, Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Speaking before the largest federation of labor unions on Tuesday, Biden warned of what Republican control could mean for an economy built on the backs of unions and the working class.

PHILADELPHIA — President Joe Biden told the largest federation of labor unions on Tuesday that he’s working to rebuild the US economy around workers, an attempt to draw a contrast with Republicans who have increasingly attracted blue-collar votes.

“We should encourage unions,” Biden said. “I’m not just saying that to be pro-union. I’m saying it because I’m pro-American. Unions built this country. Without unions, there’d be no middle class.”

In the midst of plummeting approval ratings due to record-high inflation, along with rising consumer costs and gas prices, Biden cautioned attendees of the AFL-CIO Quadrennial Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia that Republican control could lead to increased taxes for working people and lower taxes for the ultra-wealthy, while putting Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block every five years. 

In particular, he focused on Republican Florida US Sen. Rick Scott’s “Rescue America” plan, which would raise taxes and could end Social Security and Medicare for more than 2.8 million Pennsylvanians and eliminate Medicaid coverage for 3.5 million residents.

“Republicans have it all backwards: Their plan literally calls for increasing taxes on middle class and working people and cutting taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans,” Biden said. “I believe in bipartisanship, but I have no illusions about this Republican Party, the MAGA party. I’ve been able to bring some Republicans along on parts of my plan. But the fact is, Republicans in Congress are still in the grip of the ultra-MAGA agenda.”

Biden also took aim at Republican Wisconsin US Sen. Ron Johnson’s continued efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, characterizing it as a direct attack on the working class.

“The gentleman from Wisconsin, Senator Ron Johnson, is back at it again, trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, including its protections for preexisting conditions,” Biden said. “100 million people have preexisting conditions. The only reason the insurance company has to cover it is because of that law, and they’re never going to stop going after it. It’s clear the last thing they want to see is workers empowered in this country.” 

Biden told the crowd that one way to combat the MAGA agenda of lawmakers like Scott, Johnson, and Republican US Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, was to elect Pennsylvania’s Democratic candidate, John Fetterman, to the Senate.

“If you’re in a foxhole, you want John with you,” Biden said. “I know he can’t wait to get back on the trail. There’s no bigger, stronger voice for working people in this state than John.”

The president tried to rally support at the AFL-CIO convention in the face of declining union membership both nationally and in Pennsylvania. Only 10.3% of US workers belonged to a union last year, down from 20.1% in 1983, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Pennsylvania, 12.9 % of workers belonged to a union last year, down from 14.6% a decade ago. 

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.