Dems Roll Out Labor Support for Biden Economic Plan

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — A day after former Vice President Joe Biden introduced his economic agenda, Democrats and Republicans sounded off Friday.

Comments adhered to party lines, with Democrats praising the agenda’s focus on strengthening unions and growing the economy “from the middle out,” while Republicans chided the plan for giving into so-called leftist policy proposals like the Green New Deal and copying plans put forth by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

In a brief phone conference call Friday with reporters from across the country, Donald Trump Jr. decried Biden’s plan as “radical” and claimed it would cost “millions” of American jobs. He did not delve into the policy points.

“Joe Biden had 50 years in office to implement policies to help American manufacturing thrive. Instead, he spearheaded efforts that exported American jobs to places like China,” said Rick Gorka, deputy communications director for the Republican National Committee, in a follow-up email. “Additionally, during his time as vice president, the United States lost over 300,000 manufacturing jobs. Joe Biden has no credibility on this issue.”   

During a virtual roundtable with leaders of the AFL-CIO and Steelworkers union, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, lauded Biden’s plan while taking shots at President Donald Trump’s policies. Brown accused Trump of employing a “phony populism” to gain the favor of voters in the Mahoning Valley, “and then he betrayed them.”

Brown recalled the president’s advice to Valley residents to not sell their houses because manufacturing jobs would return to the region. While Democrats worked to keep jobs in the area with labor leaders such as Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga, Mahoning-Trumbull AFL-CIO Labor Council Jaladah Aslam and Dan Boone, president of United Steelworkers Local 979 – who were also on Friday’s panel – “Trump was nowhere to be found,” Brown said.

“Everything he does is to distract from the fact that he’s betrayed workers over and over and over again,” Brown said.

Brown asserted the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 benefited the wealthy and corporations, “giving them even more incentive to ship jobs overseas,” and prevented “millions of workers from getting a raise when he scaled back the overtime rule,” that was proposed by the Obama administration

Brown accused Trump of stacking the deck against workers by stocking appellate and district courts and the Supreme Court with judges who favored corporations over workers. He also criticized Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has left nearly a million Ohioans unemployed, he said.

“He has no plan to get people back to work safely,” Brown said. “He talks about getting students back to school. We all want that, teachers want to go back. No plans or dollars to help those school districts prepare to make the school yard safe.”

Brown contends Biden has supported “the dignity of work” his entire life, particularly with essential workers. The former vice president’s plan would raise wages, empower people in the workplace and would ensure tax dollars are invested to support American jobs through enforceable “Buy American” rules, “not just happy talk from Trump,” he said.

Biden’s plan would set the stage to create jobs in clean energy and health care, “in part to answer things like this pandemic,” he said. 

“His agenda sends a clear message to the workers around this country,” Brown said. “We see you. We hear you. We’re on your side. We fight for you.”

Burga agreed.

“This plan will lift up workers by enabling us to do what we do better than anyone, anywhere,” he said. “That is to make steel, assemble cars, build infrastructure, harness and transmit power, transport goods and products, create communication networks and serve and care for our people.”

It also gives workers and companies the tools necessary to compete, uses taxpayer dollars to buy American and drive innovation, stands up to “the Chinese government’s abuses,” insists on fair trade and extends opportunities to Americans, he said.

“Taxpayer money should be spent on products made in America by Americans,” Burga said. “He wants to strengthen Buy American provisions in law and get rid of waivers and loopholes that allow our tax dollars to be spent on goods and services that help prop up other countries, economies and workers.”

The plan also looks to retool small- and medium-sized manufacturers through a Manufacturing Communities Tax Credit, expands Manufacturing Extension Partnerships and creates a Treasury Department credit, Burga added.

Biden also calls for a $300 billion investment over four years into research and development “to create millions of jobs across the country,” he said. Burga says Biden will re-establish supply chains that are critical so the United States isn’t dependent on China and other countries for producing critical goods, such as face masks and ventilators. 

To the Mahoning Valley, Biden’s message of “Made in America” and “Buy American” means everything, said Aslam, who’s been a member of the AFL-CIO for 35 years. Aslam is excited to see Biden making unions part of the conversation about rebuilding the middle class.

Biden’s support for unions is important because “people don’t see unions as a basic civil rights tool,” she said. Labor contracts are what make workplace fairness possible, she said, and as a Black woman and a single mother, “I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be able to have been a member of a union for many, many years.

The Democratic presidential candidate’s plan means a lot to Boone and the members he represents from USW Local 979 in Cleveland, who work at the ArcelorMittal plant there. Biden’s plan would create a level playing field for steelmakers, he said, 

“We can compete with anybody if we’re on a level playing field,” he said. “We’ve got to come to terms with China manipulating their currency and we’ve got to lift up workers rather than it simply being about moving jobs from place to place just simply to return a greater profit margin.”

Pictured: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at McGregor Industries in Dunmore, Pa., Thursday, July 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.