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Biden touts plan to fix rising gas & food prices

The president spoke to a convention of union members in Philadelphia about rising consumer costs & the importance of unions

Amping up his plan to rebuild the American economy around the middle class, President Joe Biden addressed the largest federation of unions in the country at the group’s convention in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

“Middle class voters built the country and unions built the middle class,” Biden said to the crowd at the AFL-CIO gathering, adding that his being “pro-union” is “pro-American.” Short for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, the collective is a patchwork quilt of 56 national and international unions that all together represent more than 12 million active and retired workers.

The president used the speaking opportunity to ask union members to support his party as the midterms approach with gloomy expectations for Democrats. In particular, he made a plea for support for Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman, who will go up against the Republican nominee, former celebrity doctor and daytime talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz, in November for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat.

“If you’re in a foxhole you want John with you. There’s no bigger, stronger voice for working people in the state than John. Certainly no bigger one for that matter,” Biden joked of the 6-foot-9 politician. 

The president also relayed that the former Braddock, Pennsylvania, mayor was in good health after landing in the hospital with a stroke the weekend before the election primary and getting a pacemaker with a defibrillator put in on Election Day.

Addressing issues that will matter to voters in the general election, Biden reminded the crowd Tuesday of where things were under his predecessor Donald Trump. He painted a picture of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many Americans had waited in line for boxes of food after mass layoffs and shutdowns. 

By contrast, Biden noted that the unemployment rate is currently at 3.6% and that he has plans to fix two of the country’s biggest looming issues: rising gas and food prices.

He said he’s coordinating the largest release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in history. “Millions of barrels a day,” he said, noting he’s convincing other nations to do the same. Likewise, the president said, he’s working on getting millions of tons of grains that are stuck in the Russian-invaded Ukraine out of the country to help bring down food prices.

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Still, Biden is fighting an uphill battle against rising inflation, which has hit a 40-year high. Any hopes that inflation rates would hit a turning point were dashed Friday as another report showing decades-high price increases spurred investors to again retreat into bear territory.

Republican lawmakers have attacked Biden’s coronavirus relief package as a catalyst for the surging inflation, and have said the administration should encourage more domestic oil production in light of gas prices.

Biden, meanwhile, pressed Tuesday that corporations and the wealthy needed to start by paying “their fair share in taxes” and that working families are the ones who need more support, through laws that will allow more Americans to unionize and government subsidized child care.

“The fact is Republicans in Congress are still in the grip of the ultra MAGA agenda,” Biden said.

Pushing for more laws that foster union support, Biden called upon Congress to pass the PRO Act, which would grant employees the legal right to use work communication technology to organize collectively.

“Laying a strong foundation for the future, this country is about more than having strong roads and bridges. It’s about making sure that here in America, folks who work hard can live their lives with dignity and respect,” the president said.

Just 10.3% of U.S. workers belonged to a union last year, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. However, government statistics show that there is still monetary value in membership, as the average union member earns around $10,000 more each year than similarly situated workers without unions.

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Screenshot via Courthouse News

President Joe Biden addresses union members in Philadelphia at the AFL-CIO Convention on Tuesday, June 14, 2022.