United States President Joe Biden made his 2024 re-election pitch to union members in Philadelphia in his first political rally since launching his campaign in April, aiming to shore up a key part of his political coalition and bolster support among white working-class voters.
The event on Saturday was hosted by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), which includes 60 unions representing more than 12.5 million workers. It endorsed Biden and his running mate Vice President Kamala Harris this week – the earliest it has ever made an endorsement in a US presidential election.
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“I told you when I ran for president, I’d have your back, and I have,” Biden told the approximately 2,000 union members in attendance. “But you’ve had my back as well.”
Biden said the early endorsement would make “a gigantic difference” in the election.
Hundreds of union workers inside the convention hall began chanting “Let’s go, Joe!” and blowing whistles and hoisting campaign signs hours before Biden arrived.
Members of unions representing professions from carpenters to airport service workers to entertainers to heavy service equipment engineers praised Biden from the stage – some speaking in Spanish with translators.
The Democratic president’s frequent appearances at union events, including at a labour conference in Washington right after announcing his re-election campaign, show how important he thinks the labour movement is to a second term.
Hailed by labour leaders as the most pro-union president in history, Biden has supported collective bargaining at companies, reversed rules implemented by his Republican predecessor Donald Trump that weakened worker protections, pushed to reverse a decades-long decline in union membership, and made it easier for union labour to build bridges and ports around the country.
In his remarks, Biden talked up his $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, which passed with bipartisan support in Congress.
The Philadelphia event also comes amid some encouraging economic news for Biden, with inflation cooling last month, continuing a steady decline in consumer prices primarily driven by lower gas prices, a smaller rise in grocery costs than in previous months and less expensive furniture, airfares and appliances.
The city and Pennsylvania have long been at the heart of Biden’s political efforts. Philadelphia was the site of his campaign headquarters in 2020 and the state was one of a handful that had voted for Donald Trump in 2016 but flipped back to Democrats four years later.
Until now, Biden’s primary campaign activity has been fundraising as the campaign tries to amass an impressive fundraising haul before the year’s second quarter concludes at the end of the month. The president raised money at a private home in Greenwich, Connecticut, on Friday and soon will hold fundraisers in California, Maryland, Illinois and New York.
Union member Jennifer McKinnon, 53, a grade school librarian and member of the National Education Association, said she felt that Biden had a personal commitment to education because his wife, Jill, was a teacher who continued to teach English at a Northern Virginia community college as first lady.
“I’m very optimistic. I fear that the Republicans are going to get caught in their cycle that they did last time and people aren’t going to buy it this time, so Joe’s going to sweep right in,” McKinnon said of the 2024 election, alluding to Donald Trump, who is the early front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.
Many in the crowd also said they thought the criminal cases in federal and New York courts against Trump could complicate his electoral pitch even though his message of economic populism resonated with some union members in the past.
AP VoteCast, a sweeping survey of the 2020 electorate, found that about 6 in 10 self-identified union members supported Biden, a margin that outpaced Trump but was not commanding.