Biden, Solis Tell Workers: ‘We Need Collective Bargaining’

Tens of thousands of working people under attack from Republican governors in 12 states received some high-level support and encouragement yesterday. In a virtual town hall meeting, Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told the workers the Obama administration will stand with them and will stay with them to make sure their rights are protected.

Joined by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in the call, the Vice President opened with a quote from President Obama saying that “We can’t have a strong middle class without unions.” Then Vice President Biden added:

You built the middle class. This fight is not about wages or benefits; it’s about trying to break unions. We absolutely, positively need collective bargaining.

Solis also said our leaders should be focused on creating good jobs and helping working families get back to work.

That’s important to remember now that as states and cities grapple with enormous fiscal challenges and everyone we know is making sacrifices and meeting those challenges. But some states’ leaders have gone too far. Budget sacrifices are one thing, but having union members give up their rights is another.

As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

I truly believe this moment will be what we make of it. The teachers and firefighters and nurses and EMTs and snowplow drivers on the ground in a dozen states have provided the inspiration and shown us the way. Now we need to carry it forward – the attacks on workers’ rights are huge, but the courage and activism we’re seeing are even bigger. Together we can build a movement for real change.

Trumka urged all the listeners to take the next step toward building that movement by talking with their friends and co-workers about what’s at stake. And he invited them to join thousands of people across the country on and around April 4 for a time of solidarity and action to say, “We Are One, Respect Our Rights.” (If you’re planning an event, whether public or private, click here and post it at our We Are One site.) Find out more about April 4 here.

The virtual town hall was sponsored by the unions of the AFL-CIO, SEIU, the National Education Association (NEA), Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the Teamsters.

While the workers on the town hall phone call live in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Florida, Missouri, New Hampshire, Maine, Minnesota, Iowa and New Jersey, the attacks on workers are nationwide. Across the country, Republican governors and state legislators have proposed a variety of anti-worker measures that would cut bargaining rights, end prevailing wages, enact so-called right to work laws and a host of other measures.