By Nandita Bose and Jarrett Renshaw
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden will address union members in Philadelphia on Saturday at his first political rally since announcing his re-election campaign, in a bid to shore up a key part of his political coalition and strengthen the support of working-class white voters.
The AFL-CIO, which includes 60 unions representing more than 12.5 million workers, endorsed Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday, the earliest it has ever endorsed in a presidential election, and is organizing Saturday’s event.
Biden’s frequent appearances at labor events, including at a labor conference in Washington right after his re-election campaign was announced, show how important he thinks the labor movement is for a second term.
Hailed as the most pro-union president in history by labor leaders, he backed corporate collective bargaining, overturned Trump-era rules that weakened worker protections, pushed to reverse a multi- decades of trade union membership and made it easier for trade unions. manpower to build bridges and ports across the country.
White working-class union voters were split on Biden in 2020, but some union leaders say he now has their support.
Some building trades unions, whose members traditionally vote Republican, did not endorse any candidate in 2020 after local leaders could not agree on backing Biden or Donald Trump.
Ryan Boyer, head of the influential Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents 50 unions including boilermakers and steel workers, said Biden’s track record as president had erased any doubt among its members. as to who to support in 2024.
“It’s a different electorate this time around,” he said. “There isn’t a single worthy labor leader in Philadelphia who hasn’t recognized how supportive President Biden has been for men and women in the workplace. It’s very different.”
Union voters helped Biden win critical swing states including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan in 2020, and Labor is expected to play an important role in the Democratic Party’s grassroots operations going into 2024.
Biden won 57% of unionized households nationwide in 2020, compared to Trump’s 40%, according to Edison Research.
His relationship with the workers as president has not always been harmonious.
In December, some unions criticized Biden for signing legislation preventing a nationwide railroad strike. Separately, the United Auto Workers said in May that they did not immediately endorse Biden because of his efforts to transition the United States into a nation dependent on electric vehicles.
Seth Harris, a law professor at Northeastern University who was until recently Biden’s top labor policy adviser in the White House, said the infrastructure, chip and climate bills President’s, who have helped create millions of jobs that don’t require a college degree, will help him defeat the holdouts.
“The building trades… are one of the largest groups representing men who pursued their careers without a college degree,” he said. “A substantial part of the president’s economic strategy has focused on the men and women who will not graduate from college.”
Harris said he expects to see Biden make his case in the coming months before labor audiences in Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona and other states.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose and Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Heather Timmons and Bill Berkrot)