Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden addressed the coronavirus pandemic and the economy with union workers on Labor Day.
The Pennsylvania native traveled to Harrisburg to speak with AFL-CIO members. He spoke to workers from across the country during the roughly 45-minute event, which was shared through a livestream on the union’s Facebook page.
“If there’s one thing this pandemic has done, it’s shown the courage, the character and the deep love of this country that lies at the heart of working people in this nation,” Biden said. “Let me tell you something, folks have figured out it’s not the financial wizards of Wall Street that made this country run — or make it run — it’s you, America’s essential workers.”
Biden and President Donald J. Trump, the Republican nominee, have been heavily campaigning in Pennsylvania, which is considered to be a key battleground state. Both candidates will be at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa. on Sept. 11.
The Republican National Committee issued a response after Biden’s talk.
“Simply put, Joe Biden would be a total and complete disaster for the working man and woman of Pennsylvania. Biden is incapable of delivering for Pennsylvanians while President Trump is leading us through the Great American Comeback,” spokesperson Michael Joyce said in an email.
Here are three things to know from Biden’s talk:
‘The words of a president matter’
Biden said he’s never been afraid to use the word “union,” and he will be using it plenty of times if he’s elected to the White House. He vowed to possibly become the strongest labor president that union workers ever had.
“The words of a president matter,” he said.
The coronavirus pandemic has crushed the country, and “the sad thing is it didn’t have to be this bad,” Biden said.
He cited more than 6 million COVID-19 cases in the United States, almost 200,000 deaths and nearly 30 million on unemployment.
The former vice president said he has a plan to rebuild the nation — and build it back better — and it starts with getting the virus under control. Then the country will have a transformational investment in roads, bridges, broadband, ports and other big projects.
People will go back to work right away, and he would ensure the United States will be ready to compete with any other country in the future.
“We’re going to make sure we pay people what they’re worth,” he said, adding that it’s not enough to praise essential workers.
Biden said during his address that he would pass the PRO Act and hold company executives accountable for interfering with employees who are attempting to unionize.
President Trump keeps talking about how great the economy is, Biden said, “but the only reason he didn’t have the guts to take on COVID and threw up the white flag, he was worried if he started talking about saving people’s lives, the stock market may fall.”
“We know it’s been great for his rich friends, but it hasn’t been so great for the rest of us,” he said.
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The president is ‘downright un-American’
In his remarks to the union workers, Biden called Trump “downright un-American” when it comes to his language about veterans. “The Atlantic” has reported that the president has called fallen U.S. soldiers “losers” and “suckers.”
“I’ve never said that about a president — ever, ever, ever,” Biden said.
Those who risked and gave their lives to the country are heroes, he said.
Biden spoke about his late son, Beau, and his service in the military, and he “wasn’t a loser or a sucker.”
The president has strongly denied “The Atlantic’s” report.
“I would be willing to swear on anything that I never said that about our fallen heroes,” Trump has said. “There is nobody that respects them more.”
Keeping workers safe on the job
In addressing the coronavirus pandemic, Biden said the Republican Senate needs to pass the HEROES Act, which would help families by expanding unemployment assistance, increasing emergency grants to small businesses and more.
He also talked about getting the personal protective equipment, free testing and contact tracing needed to stop the spread of the virus. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration should be required to boost safety standards, and paid sick and emergency leave should be for provided for everyone whether they work for a big company or a small nonprofit, he said.
Companies that receive bailout money should be required to keep employees on the payroll or they don’t get the money, he said.
The focus, he said, should be getting the economy and families back up and in the game.
This article originally appeared on York Daily Record: Joe Biden visits Harrisburg on Labor Day, addresses COVID, economy with AFL-CIO members