Vice president Joe Biden makes it clear he will support forced unionism if he runs for president, and eulogizes union bosses for their power to force workers to pay dues. The Leo Gerard Biden refers to is president of the United Steelworkers Union. Byron York has the story in the Washington Examiner.
Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Pittsburgh Monday to address a strongly union crowd at the Allegheny County Labor Day Parade. In doing so, Biden also traveled through time, decades into the past to an era when organized labor ruled the Democratic Party and shaped the careers of politicians like the young Joe Biden.
Indeed he did. But 1972 was a long time ago, a time when bosses named Huey and big old boys named Emory had the clout to deliver the votes to turn an election around for an unknown candidate. In 1972, union membership was still near its peak nationwide, with about 24 percent of all U.S. workers belonging to unions. Now, it’s around 11 percent — and what union energy remains is mostly within the still-growing ranks of government-worker unions, not with shrinking old organizations like the steelworkers. Just 6.6 percent of the private-sector workforce is unionized.
Biden’s speech was basically an extended eulogy for union power. “Nationally, labor’s been clobbered,” he said. “What’s happened has been devastating … I’m hot, I’m mad, I’m angry.”
“What happened?” Biden asked. “What happened?’
There was really no need for Biden to explain to a labor audience in Pittsburgh what has happened over the last 40 years. That wasn’t the point. The point of Biden’s appearance — at just the moment he is deciding whether to run for president — was to tell the unions: I’m with you. I’m your guy.
“You’re the only ones who have the power to keep the barbarians from the gate,” Biden told the crowd, even though his remarks made clear the barbarians had crashed through long ago.
Loyalty? Not many other politicians running for national office would begin their remarks, as Biden did, by saying, “My name’s Joe Biden and I work for Leo Gerard.” Gerard, standing a few feet away, is president of the United Steelworkers, and Biden is still showing respect for the union bosses who pulled the levers that sent the young senator to Washington.
The real message of Biden’s speech was to remind union members that he goes back with them a long way, and that he won’t forget what organized labor has done for him. To that end, the vice president offered a classically Bidenesque mangled aphorism that somehow still managed to get the point across. “We have an expression where I grew up — you go home with them that brung you to the dance,” Biden said. “And you all brung me to the dance.”
Yes, they did. A very long time ago.