Biden in Detroit: ‘America is better off today’
DETROIT – Vice President Joe Biden praised labor and criticized Republican policies in front of thousands of union members in downtown Detroit on Labor Day.
Biden promised the crowd at the AFL-CIO Labor Day Rally that he and President Barack Obama, if re-elected, will continue to protect collective bargaining rights for unions and fight right-to-work laws.
“(Republicans) don’t get it,” Biden said. “Right-to-work means the right to work for less. As long as we’re here, it will not happen.”
Union members are a key demographic of the Democratic Party, and Biden tried to appeal to them in his 15-minute speech.
The vice president frequently contrasted himself and Obama with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.
“(Romney) called the president of the United States out of touch,” Biden said. “Out of touch? How many of you all have a Swiss bank account? How much do you have in the Cayman Islands? This guy won’t even let you see his tax returns.”
Biden criticized Romney for his opposition to the 2009 bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler and praised autoworkers for sacrificing benefits and pay to keep those companies afloat.
“You are the reason why the auto industry is back,” Biden said.
Biden said the Republican Party has drifted so far to the right it has become unrecognizable.
“This is not your father’s Republican Party,” Biden said. “They see you, the workers, as the problem. We see you as the solution to the problem.”
The vice president, joined on stage by his son and grandson, said the country is in a better position thanks to the Obama administration.
“America is better off today than they left us when they left,” Biden said.
He repeated what he called a “bumper sticker” line to end his speech.
“Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive,” Biden said.
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., spoke before Biden and touched on many of the same themes the vice president did.
“We wouldn’t have a middle class if Michigan didn’t know how to make things,” Stabenow said.
Stabenow attacked her Republican challenger, former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, for his opposition to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a law signed in 2009 by Obama that guarantees equal pay for women.
“Equal pay for equal work,” Stabenow said. “That’s what America is about, and that’s what we’re fighting for.”
Stabenow said Michigan and the country have turned a corner since Obama took office.
“I believe that if we stay the course, America will come roaring back and Michigan will be in the driver’s seat,” Stabenow said.
Jim Mamalakis, a Ford employee and United Auto Workers member, attended the rally and said Biden “hit the nail on the head.”
“I work at Ford, and we were lucky enough not to have to take federal assistance, but the bailouts were for the benefit of everybody,” Mamalakis said. “If one of the Big Three went under, the other two and parts suppliers might have as well.”
He said the election is all about jobs.
“This country needs manufacturing jobs,” Mamalakis said. “The auto industry is keeping manufacturing alive in this country, and the administration is to thank for that.”
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