Remarks by President Biden Celebrating Labor Day and the Dignity of American Workers
Milwaukee, Wisconsin September 5 1:37 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Milwaukee! (Applause.) My name is Joe Biden. I am Jill Biden's husband. (Applause.) And I want to start by saying: Any child under 12 years of age deserves a little extra ice cream or something for doing this. (Laughter.) This has got to be the most boring thing in the world for you, honey. (Laughter.) But we're going to work something out for you, I promise.
Folks, if you have seat, don't hesitate to take them.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, Uncle Joe!
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, man. (Applause.)
Well, you know, I think this is getting to be a pretty good - a good year for a Labor Day. (Applause.)
Eduardo, thank you for that introduction. It's great to be with Governor Evers, Representative Gwen Moore. Where's Gwen? There you go, Gwen. I love you, kid. (Applause.) You've been there every step of the way when I've needed help as President. Thank you, thank you, thank you. (Applause.)
And Mayor Johnson. Where is Mayor - where is the mayor? There you go. You've got those two beautiful girls and a son. I tell you what, you got to tell your girls you got to be patient with we dads. We're hard to raise. We're hard to raise. (Laughter.)
And - and I - where is the county executive? Stand up big guy? I think these guys spend - I think these two guys spend all their time in the gymnasium. They look like they're in too good a shape. (Applause.)
And I want to thank Tammy - she couldn't be here today - who's a champion of working people and always there. (Applause.)
You know, and the same goes to Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, who couldn't be here, but - (applause) - he's going be your next United States senator. (Applause.) Oh, he is.
And I want to thank Liz Shuler for her fearless leadership at the AFL-CIO.
And thanks to Pam for your leadership of the AFL-CIO here in Milwaukee. Thank you, thank you, thank you. (Applause.) Where is she? Back there. Okay, there you are, Pam. I was - okay. I wonder where everyone is sitting.
And how about actually having a union guy as the Secretary of Labor? (Applause.) I'll tell you what, if you're going to be in a foxhole, you want Marty in there with you. Now, you may have trouble understanding when he starts talking about car barns - (said in Boston accent) - and (inaudible) garages and talks - (laughter) - he talks kind of funny, but he knows what he's talking about.
I promised to be the most pro-union President in American history, and Marty is keeping me to make that promise. (Applause.)
And by the way, the reason for that, I'll - and I've - I've had this conversation with the Business Roundtable and all the major chambers of commerce - is not just - just that I think that it's important that people get a shot. But, look the reason why - the reason why businesses should be hiring labor folks is simple: You have - you're the single-greatest technicians in the world. You're the best laborers in the world. You build the best product.
And no, no, I'm not just joking. I'm not just saying that. But people forget - a lot of the trades - they forget - you go to four, five years of school - your apprenticeship. It's like going back to college. It's not like you, all of a sudden, just step - step in. You build a better product, it lasts longer, and it's cheaper for the business, and it's better for the country. (Applause.)
Look - folks, Labor Day is a special day in the country for - and here in Milwaukee. This is one of the biggest Labor Day events in America you all have here. (Applause.)
And it's a special day to me as well. Because the fact of the matter is I wouldn't be here without unions - unions: electricians, ironworkers, letter carriers, Teamsters, laborers, bricklayers, transit workers, plumbers and pipefitters, steelworkers. (Applause.) I wouldn't be here without cops, firefighters, teacher, nurses. (Applause.) I wouldn't be here without painters, pilots, autoworkers, custodians, carpenters, grocery store workers, steel metal workers, and so many others. That's not a joke. That's not a joke.
I got elected when I was 29 years old to the United States Senate in a state that had recently been "right to work." You know why? Because union labor endorsed me and fought for me. (Applause.)
So bad news for you all is: I'm here because of you.
Look, the middle class - the middle class built America. Everybody knows that. But unions built the middle class. (Applause.) That's a fact. That's a fact.
Look, folks, I believe we're at an inflection point in American history - I really mean that - that comes around every five or six generations, an inflection where - one of those moments where everything is changing. Everything is changing.
And we're going to have to ask whether we want to be a country that moves forward or backwards; we're going to - we're going to build a future or we're going to obsess about the past.
I've said many times: We're the only country in the world that's come out of every crisis we ever faced stronger than we went in it. No other nation has done that. (Applause.)
And we do it because we've been a nation of unity, of hope, of optimism - not as a nation of division and violence and hatred that's being preached by some others.
I want to be very clear up front: Not every Republican is a MAGA Republican. Not every Republican embraces that extreme ideology. I know because I've been able to work with mainstream Republicans my whole career.
But the extreme MAGA Republicans in Congress have chosen to go backwards - full of anger, violence, hate, and division.
But together, we can and we must choose a different path: forward. (Applause.) No, I really mean it. We have to. A future of unity, of hope, of optimism. We're going to choose to build a better America - a better America. (Applause.)
There's no question it's been a hard few years, but we've come a long way.
Today, COVID no longer controls our lives. More Americans are working than at any time in all of American history.
Last year, more people applied to start small businesses than any year in history. But it didn't just happen. We never gave up. We never gave in. And we are delivering for working- and middle-class Americans now - now. (Applause.)
Nearly 10 million new jobs - more jobs than have ever been created at this point in any presidency in history. Wages are up. Unemployment remains near a 50-year low. And the big reason for all this is the American Rescue Plan that I signed into law shortly after taking office - (applause) - with the help of your Democratic members of Congress. That's how we got it done. Not one, single Republican vote.
And the plan took America from economic crisis to economic recovery. And here in Wisconsin, your governor and your mayor of Milwaukee used that money like it's supposed to be used: keeping city workers on the job in the face of rising costs, keeping streets safe by fixing streetlights, training 130 new firefighters, helping hire close to 200 more police officers.
And not a single Republican voted for that - not one, single one. Every single Republican in Congress in this state voted against that funding.
AUDIENCE: Booo -
THE PRESIDENT: So, let me remind you - no, I really mean it. Let me remind you what else was in that American Rescue Plan.
A thing called the Butch Lewis Act. (Applause.) Now, look, for too long, most Americans didn't know what that means. Those of you who have been driving trucks from factories to stores; bagging our groceries; building our buildings, bridges, roads, so much more. And with each paycheck you earn, the employers put that money into pension plan.
But some companies didn't set aside enough money to pay for those plans. And as a result, hundreds of pensions - 2 to 3 million workers and retirees - were going insolvent. Millions of retirees were at risk of losing their retirement security through no fault of your own.
So, with the American Rescue Plan, we passed the Butch Lewis Act to protect pensions all of you worked so damn hard for - (applause) - pensions you sacrificed for. In retirement, it'd be a little like losing your Social Security and your Medicare.
It's one of the most significant achievements union workers and retirees - for union workers and retirees in over 50 years. And I'll say it again: Not a single Republican congressman voted to protect your pensions - not one.
AUDIENCE: Booo -
THE PRESIDENT: And by the way, I know a lot of them wanted to vote for it, but they're afraid of losing primaries in this new Republican Party.
We also passed a once-in-a-generation investment in our nation's roads, highways, bridges, railroads, ports, water systems, high-speed Internet.
Folks, your governor has already repaired over 5,000 miles [of roads], 1,500 bridges here in Wisconsin alone. Just a start. (Applause.)
We will, when this is over, have the best infrastructure - not a joke - in the entire world. The single-best in the world. (Applause.)
And that means jobs. No, that means jobs. That means we continue to lead the world. You can't do it without the best ports. You can't do it without the best airports. You can't do it - I'm not going to go on, but the point is: You can't do it.
Right here in Milwaukee, it's estimated 40 percent of the homes still have lead service water - lead pipes for their water. Because of the Infrastructure Law, the city is receiving millions of dollars to replace lead pipes to make sure families have safe drinking water. (Applause.) Your child shouldn't have to worry about turning on the faucet or going to school, going to the water fountain and worrying about any kind of lead in the water.
Look, it's the biggest investment in America since President Eisenhower's Interstate Highway Act. And we made sure that the Infrastructure Law included significant labor protections. For example, the majority of the funds in the law are subject to Davis-Bacon. (Applause.)
And it's not just because I wanted to help unions. It's simple: You're the best in the world. That's not hyperbole. No, you really - it's not a joke. You really, genuinely are.
You don't just decide you want to be a pipefitter or an electrician. It takes you four to five years of hard work - the apprenticeships. It's like going to college. You're the best-trained workers in the world, and you deserved to be treated that way. (Applause.)
And by the way, those of you who know me, no one ever doubts I mean what I say. The problem is, I sometimes say all that mean. (Laughter.) I've made the same comments to the Business Rountable, to the Chamber of Commerce. They understand it. They don't want to pay it; they understand it, though. Because it's true.
I also signed the CHIPS and Science Act, a groundbreaking law. We'll once again manufacture semiconductor chips that power everyday - everything - our smartphones, dishwashers, automobiles, national security stuff - right here in America.
Guess what? We invented it here. We invented it here in America. (Applause.)
And by the way, the reason why last time out, last year, inflation was so high - you know the biggest reason? Cost of automobiles. You know why they cost so much? They didn't have the computer chips to make the automobiles.
Folks, here in Wisconsin, Senator Baldwin made clear that you're ready to take advantage of this law with world-class universities and a workforce that knows how to manufacture a product here in Wisconsin. This law is going to create tens of thousands of jobs in America, bringing billions of dollars of investment here in America - well over $100 billion in investments in America, revitalizing American manufacturing. (Applause.)
Where is written - where is it written that says America can't lead the world in manufacturing? Where does it say that? We've exported too damn much.