By Dave Lindorff
Philadelphia — At a packed ‘Presidential Summit’ on Tuesday organized and sponsored by this city’s AFL-CIO Labor Council, former Delaware Senator and Vice-President and repeat Democratic presidential primary contender Joe Biden’s oft-touted claim to be the “working-class,” or alternatively “middle-class” favorite looked pretty exaggerated.
Assigned pole position as the first candidate to get 30 minutes to make his case to the assembled union activists and members in the huge Philadelphia Convention Center, Biden claimed that in all his years in politics, “I have never let you down.” He challenged opponents to show where he had “ever voted against the interests” of unions and working people.
Biden was greeted initially with polite but wide-spread applause after being introduced by retired local journalist Vernon Odem, the event’s emcee. But the applause that followed for what he had to say was decidedly subdued — for example when he said that on day one of his presidency he’d end President Trump’s tax break for the top 10% of the nation’s citizens and raise the child care credit to $8000, the applause was minimal and brief. The response to his mention of his “health care plan,” which he promised would allow “union members to keep their plans,” was even more embarrassingly lackluster. And no wonder: Most unions these days dare battling rear-guard actions in negotiations (mostly failures) to prevent bosses from paring away coverage, increasing the workers’ share of premiums, raising co-pays and deductibles, and, as GM demonstrated in the current UAW strike, cancelling health coverage for workers on strike.
The contrast to the assembled workers’ response to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose turn came after both Biden and Andrew Yang, was marked. Striding onto the stage to a rousing rendition of John Lennon’s “Power to the People!” (candidates at the event chose their own theme music), Sanders, his voice more gravelly than usual because of a gruelling campaign schedule, quickly cited his “100% AFL-CIO voting record” over his political career and said he had “walked on picket lines more times than I can remember.” He then, without mentioning him by name, slapped down Biden’s claim to have “always been with” working people by saying “I worked to get Amazon workers $15/hour, I did not vote for the war in Iraq, I did not vote for the Wall Street bailout, I did not vote for the Bankruptcy Bill, and I did not vote for NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, which have cost American workers four million jobs.”
Biden voted for all those anti-worker measures.
In response to that obvious knock on Biden, the hall erupted in loud clapping and cheers of “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!”
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