PHILADELPHIA — President Biden kicked off his reelection campaign Saturday with a rally in Philadelphia where he appeared alongside union members and argued that his economic agenda deserves another four years.
The event at the Pennsylvania Convention Center was attended by unions representing roughly 18 million workers nationwide, underscoring how crucial the support of labor is to Mr. Biden winning a second term. It was also a callback to how Mr. Biden opened his 2020 presidential campaign, which began at a union hall in Pittsburgh.
The enthusiastic crowd frequently interrupted Mr. Biden’s remarks, chanting “Let’s go Joe!” and “We want Joe!”
Mr. Biden repeatedly hailed labor unions throughout his remarks, saying they were at the forefront of his economic plan.
“I truly believe this country is about to take off. The investments we made in the last three years have the power to transform the country for the next five decades and guess who’s going to be at the center of that transformation? You,” Mr. Biden told the crowd.
He also warned union members that House Republican efforts to roll back his investments in domestic manufacturing to support the clean energy transition will cost labor jobs.
“They are coming for your jobs. They are coming for your future and the future belonging to your kids and grandkids,” Mr. Biden said.
Mr. Biden trumpeted economic gains on his watch, noting that since taking office more than 13 million jobs were created, including nearly 800,000 manufacturing jobs.
“America can lead the world in manufacturing jobs again. Inflation is coming down. Today it is half of what it was one year ago,” Mr. Biden said.
While total employment increased, the nation’s unemployment rate ticked up to 3.7% in May, an unexpected increase from 3.4% in April.
Polls show most voters are giving Mr. Biden poor marks for his handling of the economy as inflation remains stubbornly high. Even though recent data shows inflation is easing, it is still higher than when Mr. Biden took office.
Despite Mr. Biden’s rosy picture of the economy, his record remains mixed.
The Federal Reserve raised benchmark interest rates by roughly 5 percentage points in 15 months, raising the costs of borrowing and using credit. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell hinted that interest rates may be raised again after the Fed took a pause this week.
While inflation has eased somewhat, core inflation — a measure that strips out volatile gas and food prices — remains high. In May core inflation rose 0.4% following steady monthly increases averaging 0.4% in 2023.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel pushed back on Mr. Biden’s claims of economic gains.
“Under Joe Biden, Pennsylvanians’ savings are down, incomes are down, economic confidence is down, and criminal activity is up. His presence on the campaign trail will only remind voters that his failed agenda has caused suffering for American families,”
Ahead of the campaign rally, several of the nation’s most prominent unions, including the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, officially endorsed Mr. Biden’s campaign.
Upon his election, Mr. Biden vowed to be the “most pro-union president you’ve ever seen,” and has been unwavering in his support for big labor. He has signed bills incentivizing companies that use union employees,
“He has shown up for working people in so many ways,” Bill Scott of the Communications Workers of America said during the rally. “It has made a huge difference for me and my fellow CWA members.”
Mr. Scott cited Mr. Biden’s appointment of pro-union judges to the Labor Relations Board, incentivizing companies to use union employees and legislative wins that will require union employees to build everything from semiconductors to roads and bridges.
Not all unions have come out for Mr. Biden. The powerful United Auto Workers said last month it was holding off on whether to endorse the president, citing concerns about his push to transition to electric vehicles.
Elisabeth Messenger, the CEO of Americans For Fair Treatment, a union watchdog organization, slammed big labor’s endorsement of Mr. Biden.
“AFL-CIO’s early endorsement of Biden is a glaring example of unions putting politics before members,” she said in a statement. “Workers lose when unions focus on politics instead of representing their members.”
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