Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, center, listens to McGregor Industries owner Bob McGregor, right, give a tour of the metal fabricating facility, Thursday, July 9, 2020, in Dunmore, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, center, listens to McGregor Industries owner Bob McGregor, right, give a tour of the metal fabricating facility, Thursday, July 9, 2020, in Dunmore, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Michigan congressman Andy Levin says manufacturing unions have given millions of families tickets to the middle class. Those families are at the center of Joe Biden’s presidential plan.

WARREN, MI — Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has long been an advocate for labor unions.  His “Build Back Better” plan puts that advocacy into tangible form. 

That resonates with Monique Watson. Her union helped her to further her education.

“When I started at General Motors, I was 20 years old,” Watson, vice president of UAW Local 22, said while joining Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Rep. Andy Levin (D-Warren) for a roundtable to discuss the Build Back Better plan Friday. “A great union job, manufacturing job, literally changed my life. It changed the trajectory of my life. I was able to graduate with an associate’s degree and start Wayne State in the fall. I’ve been able to take care of my family to the best of my ability.”

Because of the benefits of her union job, she was able to pursue higher  education. That is one of the many potential benefits unions have for American families, she explained, and those more educated employees are stronger participants in the workplace. 

“Before I came to Congress I was a union organizer,” said Rep. Levin. “Thanks to the role unions … have played in American history, manufacturing jobs have provided tens of millions of people in this country with a ticket to the middle class. But that’s getting harder and harder, especially in a Trump presidency.”

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Levin discussed the heavy layoffs manufacturing has seen since even before the pandemic and the unique struggle of pivoting manufacturers to produce personal protective equipment without coordinated effort to direct production or emergency benefits. Trump also has opposed unions forming in the public sector, reports the Washington Post.

In contrast, Biden’s plan includes supporting the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which would fine companies that attempt to interfere with efforts of employees to unionize. It also holds executives personally and criminally accountable for intentional attempts to interfere with those efforts. 

Biden has also pledged that his administration would not grant federal contracts to companies that engaged in union busting activities, wage theft, or other violations of labor law. Contracts also will only be given to businesses who provide family-sustaining benefits and pay a wage of $15 per hour. 

Also, Biden has promised to protect public-sector employees’ right to bargain collectively, create a cabinet-level working group dedicated to promoting unions, and ensure workers can strike without fear of reprisal. 

Biden’s Build Back Better plan has also incorporated progressive policies from his primary opponents, like a $15 per hour minimum wage beyond just those businesses seeking government contracts and including tipped workers. He also supports ending the era of Amazon paying no federal taxes.

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“The truth is throughout this [coronavirus] crisis, Donald Trump has been almost singularly focused on the stock market — the Dow and Nasdaq — not you, not your families,” Biden said during his remarks in Pennsylvania near his hometown of Scranton. “If I’m fortunate enough to be elected president, I’ll be laser-focused on working families, the middle-class families that I came from.”

Biden’s long history as a supporter of unions has earned him some major endorsements so far during the 2020 presidential campaign. Both the UAW and the AFL-CIO have thrown their considerable weight behind the former vice president. 

“In these dangerous and difficult times, the country needs a president who will demonstrate clear, stable leadership, less partisan acrimony and more balance to the rights and protections of working Americans,” said a statement from Rory Gamble, president of the UAW. “UAW Members need a federal government that ensures that members have both a good job to go to, and that they come home to their families at night having earned a fair day’s wage in a safe and secure place.”