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In Pittsburgh Labor Day speech, Joe Biden calls on labor unions to support Democrats, blasts Republicans

  • Kiley Koscinski/WESA

With midterm elections just two months away, President Joe Biden visited Pittsburgh on Monday and called on labor unions to support Democratic candidates this fall.

In his remarks at the United Steelworkers of America Local Union 2227 hall in West Mifflin, Biden depicted high stakes for the November elections, saying control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate — as well as some key governorships — will be decided then.

Speaking to about 100 United Steelworkers members and their families, Biden called the political moment in America “an inflection point.” Echoing sentiments he made last week during an unusual prime-time address, he called supporters of former President Donald Trump too “extreme,” and he warned that the United States is in a “fight for democracy.”

“Democracy is really at stake. You can’t be a democracy when you support violence when you don’t like the outcome of an election,” Biden said. “We have a choice … we can choose to build a better America, or we can continue down this sliding path of oblivion.”

Kiley Koscinski / 90.5 WESA

President Joe Biden calls on those present to support Democratic candidates during the general election in November. The president spoke at the United Steelworkers of America Local Union 2227 hall in West Mifflin during his visit to Pittsburgh.

The remarks are part of Biden’s effort to build union support across the country for Democratic candidates this fall. His visit to Pittsburgh was his second Labor Day stop in a key swing state; earlier in the day, he spoke to union leaders and supporters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In both speeches, the president called on those present to support Democrats up and down the ballot in November.

“The United States has to regain its footing and remember who we are,” Biden said, emphasizing that the working families who helped him secure the presidency in 2020 could help Democrats take control of the House and Senate this fall.

U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and a dozen local political and labor leaders attended to support Biden, including U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, U.S. Reps. Mike Doyle and Conor Lamb, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. With them were congressional candidate Chris DeLuzio and U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman, the state’s current lieutenant governor. Gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro was not present, though his running mate Austin Davis was.

In their remarks, Doyle and Casey pointed to the American Rescue Plan, the bipartisan infrastructure deal, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act as recent Democratic victories that are helping working families to access health care and pay their bills.

“We practically did it all by ourselves,” Doyle said, noting that the four bills attracted little Republican support. “Democrats in Congress stepped up for the American people.”

Fetterman noted his eagerness to join Casey in Washington and help Democrats take control of the U.S. Senate, and he criticized his Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz, as anti-union.

“Please understand the stakes in this race. Send me to Washington, D.C., so I can work with Senator Casey and I can champion the union way of life,” he said.

Kiley Koscinski / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. and U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman speaks to USW union members and their families Monday in West Mifflin during President Joe Biden’s visit to Pittsburgh.

According to a statement from Fetterman’s campaign, the candidate also spoke with Biden earlier in the day Monday about his position in favor of decriminalizing cannabis and expunging the records of people convicted of nonviolent cannabis offenses.

Biden didn’t speak publicly about cannabis Monday, but he did express his support for Fetterman’s Senate run.

“If I have to be in a foxhole, I want John Fetterman in there with me,” Biden said. “I mean that sincerely.”

The picnic was Biden’s third trip to Pennsylvania in the past week — following stops in Wilkes-Barre and Philadelphia — a clear sign of the battleground state’s importance in the upcoming elections. Former President Donald Trump also visited Wilkes-Barre on Saturday to campaign for Pennsylvania Republican candidates.

Another theme to emerge throughout Monday’s event: the political might of labor unions. Biden said his earliest political support came from labor unions in Pittsburgh.

“The fact is, you guys own me,” he said.

Labor leaders, including AFL-CIO president Liz Shuler, praised Biden as the “most pro-union president” in American history.

“This administration truly is putting working families front and center in everything it does,” she said, pointing to such legislation as the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act.

In his closing remarks, Biden provided an optimistic view of the current political moment while stressing the importance of voting this fall.

“It’s about time that we stand up and remember who in God’s name we are. We’re the United States of America,” he said. “There’s nothing beyond our capacity.”

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