Menu Close

Biden scolds Wall Street, defends economic record to unions amid recession fears

view original post

By Nandita Bose

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden defended his economic track record at a union convention in Philadelphia on Tuesday amid rising recession fears on Wall Street, as he seeks to deepen relationships with organized labor and improve his approval ratings among Democrats.

“Wall Street didn’t build this country, the middle class built this country,” he said, adding that if investment bankers went on strike, not much would happen to the U.S. economy.

“I don’t want to hear any more of these lies about reckless spending. We are changing people’s lives,” he said.

Worries that a hawkish Federal Reserve will hurt U.S. growth as it attempts to tame inflation helped drive the benchmark S&P 500 to into a “bear market” on Monday, a situation that could beckon a recession.

Biden spoke in front of about 2,000 union members, leaders and state and local officials at the AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention, which is held every four years, and where labor leaders chart strategy. The labor federation comprises 57 affiliated unions and 12.5 million workers.

He recalled food lines and job losses under former President Donald Trump and sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, and noted record low unemployment today.

“Talk about a contrast. Ordinary people waiting in line for an hour for a box of food,” while presidential policies created more billionaires than ever in American history, he said.

Biden, hailed as a pro-union president by labor leaders, has continued to throw his support behind unions and collective bargaining, and the White House is counting on unions to help Democrats win in the November midterms.

Biden called on union members to throw their support behind John Fetterman the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate, and Stacey Abrams, who is running for governor in Georgia.

Support from unions was key to Biden’s win in key swing states in the 2020 election. Biden won 57% of union households nationwide compared with 40% for Trump, according to Edison Research.

He has ousted government officials whom unions deemed hostile to labor, reversed Trump-era rules that weakened worker protections and established a White House labor taskforce to reverse a decades-long decline in union membership.

More recently, Biden met with a new generation of union organizers at the White House, warned major businesses that their workforces would seek to unionize with his support and has supported a push on Capitol Hill that allows for congressional staffers to unionize.

However only 10.3% of the U.S. workforce was represented by a union in 2021, down from more than 30% in the 1950s, the White House said in February. The numbers are even lower for private-sector employees, where union membership has fallen to 6.1% in 2021 from 16.8% in 1983.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Philadelphia, Andrea Shalal, and Alex Alper in Washington; Editing by Sam Holmes and Alistair Bell)