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President Joe Biden, who often says he's the most pro-union president in history, touted the importance of organized labor and applauded American workers in building the economy during a Labor Day appearance in Philadelphia on Monday.
The Democratic president spoke about how the economy is recovering from the crippling coronavirus pandemic and about what his administration has done to pay for infrastructure improvements, and cited the importance of unions in building the middle class.
As the pace of the Republican primary season escalates, Biden is trying to reclaim ground among working class voters that abandoned Democrats and moved their allegiance to former President Donald Trump and others over cultural issues. And on Monday in Philadelphia he gave a preview of that argument, repeatedly referring to Trump as "the last guy" and likening Trump's job creation record to that of President Herbert Hoover, who presided over the country as it spiraled into the Great Depression and was soundly defeated by Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Speaking of Trump — who is the leading Republican candidate in the polls so far — Biden said: "He left office with fewer jobs in America than when he got elected into office."
Biden spoke to a crowd of union members from a diversity of industries — from steel workers to stage hands — and focused on the impact that his administration's policies have had on working people.
"This Labor Day we're celebrating jobs, good-paying jobs, jobs you can raise a family on, union jobs," Biden told the crowd. Instead of standing at the podium, the president held the microphone in his hand and walked around the stage behind signs that read "UNION STRONG."
Labor Day, a holiday honoring workers, comes this year against the backdrop of increasingly emboldened U.S. unions of all kinds and a potential strike by 146,000 United Auto Workers union members.
The president was asked about whether there might be a strike and said he didn't think it would happen. That drew a quick reaction from the UAW's President Shawn Fain, who said he was "shocked" by the president's words and said that the president "must know something we don't know."
"I think we've got a long ways to go," Fain said. "All three are required to have an agreement done by Sept. 14. That's the deadline for all three. And if they don't there will be action."
Fain said the union's intent is not to strike but to get a fair agreement.
Labor Day also arrived as the U.S. has added jobs and more people have begun looking for work — the most since January. That is news Biden is eager to highlight as he seeks reelection in 2024.
Biden still needs to persuade voters that his policies are having a positive impact on their lives. Only 36 percent of U.S. adults approve of Biden's handling of the economy, slightly lower than the 42 percent who approve of his overall performance, according to an August poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
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