From: Dan Roberts [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, October 07, 2015 4:47 PM
To: Lance, Kirsten
Subject: VPOTUS pool report #1
Vice president Biden arrived a few minutes late at 3.52pm for his speech to union leaders at the 'Worker Voice' summit, saying he had been with the president “on a foreign policy matter in the Oval”.
No major news or declarations were made and the 20 minutes of remarks were streamed on WhiteHouse.live, but here are a few highlights in case you missed them:
Biden welcomed what he called “the backbone of organised labor” in the room and said he was going to be “untypically blunt” with them.
He started by celebrating the economic recovery under the Obama administration but blamed past administrations for stagnating wages and weaker unions: “Because of the way the deck has been stacked in the previous 10 -12 years, middle class folks have been getting hurt and they are still getting hurt.”
He held up a chart showing union membership declining while the share of income going to the top 10% rose over time, and said union collective bargaining was the key to lifting middle class wages.
“You all – and it's not hyperbole – you built the middle class... you forced everything up,” he added, before blaming falling wages on weaker collective bargaining.
“Folks in the other team argue its all globalisation, that had a little bit to do with it but the fact of the matter is the rules got changed.. fiscal policy and tax policy.”
He said the definition of middle class was “not a number, it's a value set”, pointing at home ownership and being able to send your kids to college.
“It's shrinking for a whole lot of reasons, some of which we can control,” said Biden. “A key part of that is being able to sit down and bargain.”
He briefly rattled off some policy proposals, such as trippling minimum childcare tax credit and a $500 tax credit for dual wages earners, but said the president would talk more about them in the next event.
Mainly, the vice president's speech seemed to be about expressing solidarity with the union leaders in the room.
“I know none of you worry about where my sentiments lie,” said Biden,
“I was having lunch with Rich about a month ago, [AFL-CIO president Richard] Trumka, and I was talking about what do we have to do in 2015 to revive collective bargaining,” he added. “We've lost - I say we, I consider myself one of you - we've lost because they have captured the vocabulary.”
“I got in trouble – which is unusual for me – for saying that labor is the outfit keeping the barbarians at the gate,” said Biden separately. “It was a bit of hyperbole to make a point.. [but[ the weaker labor is, the worse off the American worker is. It's not because the other guy is bad.”
He ended by urging unions to help turn the recovery into something that would help all Americans, and apologised again for running late.
“We're counting on you, we need your help, we need your muscle, we need to move,” he told the crowd which included Valerie Jarrett, Gene Sperling, Trumka and several dozen union leaders and activists. “If I don't move, I will be demoted to secretary of state. That's a joke.”
Washington Bureau Chief
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