Biden To Labor Activists: You're Keeping The Barbarians From The Gate

Joe Biden's a long-time union backer, and it's good to see that he's out showing support for labor in these ongoing battles with Republican governors:

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Biden gave the Obama administration's most forceful statement of solidarity with organized labor in its current battles around the nation on Thursday, encouraging activists to continue fighting for workers' rights.

"You guys built the middle class," said Biden in a virtual town hall conversation hosted by the AFL-CIO. "I would just emphasize what Hilda [Solis] said and say it slightly different: We don't see the value of collective bargaining, we see the absolute positive necessity of collective bargaining. Let's get something straight: The only people who have the capacity -- organizational capacity and muscle -- to keep, as they say, the barbarians from the gate, is organized labor. And make no mistake about it, the guys on the other team get it. They know if they cripple labor, the gate is open, man. The gate is wide open. And we know that too."

The e-mail announcement for the call went out to labor activists, including members of the growing advocacy group Working America, and it pitched the call as a conversation with 100,000 supporters about "Republican assaults on collective bargaining in at least a dozen states." AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis joined Biden on the call, where listeners were also allowed to ask questions (although Biden had to leave before that portion).

Biden's comments underscored the importance of labor not only in terms of workers' rights but also politically. He acknowledged the role that unions played in helping launch his political career, and he noted his personal identification with the activists as someone who grew up in the Rust Belt in Scranton, Penn.

"I've got to state the obvious," he said. "There's an old expression: 'You go home with them that brung you to the dance.' You guys all brought me to the dance 36 years ago in Delaware as a United States senator. You've been with me, and I've stayed with you."

Both Biden and Solis used the opportunity to promote what the Obama administration has done for this valuable constituency, such as restoring a level "playing field" at the Labor Department and the National Labor Relations Board upon taking office.

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