By WILL WEISSERT
WASHINGTON (AP) — During a stop in Milwaukee on Labor Day, President Joe Biden praised union labor, saying they “built the middle class.”
“The middle class built America,” Biden told a workers’ gathering at park grounds in Milwaukee. “Everybody knows that. But unions built the middle class.”
The unofficial start of fall, Labor Day also traditionally starts a political busy season where campaigns scramble to excite voters for Election Day on Nov. 8. That’s when control of the House and Senate, as well some of the country’s top governorships, will be decided.
During his address in Milwaukee, Biden said, “Not every Republican is a MAGA Republican” but singled out those who have taken former President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign cry to dangerous or hateful lengths. He highlighted episodes like last year’s mob attack on the U.S. Capitol.
He said that many in the GOP are “full of anger, violence, hate, division.”
“But together we can, and we must, choose a different path forward,” Biden said. “A future of unity and hope. We’re going to choose to build a better America.”
Unions endorsements helped Biden overcome disastrous early finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire to win the 2020 Democratic primary, and eventually the White House. He has since continued to praise the labor movement as president.
Mary Kay Henry, president of the 2 million-member Service Employees International Union, called Biden’s championing of unions heading into the midterm elections “critical” and said workers must “mobilize in battlegrounds across the country to ensure that working people turn out.”
“We’re really excited about the president speaking directly to workers about, if he had the opportunity, he’d join a union,” Henry said. She added: “This president has signaled which side he’s on. And he’s on the side of working people. And that matters hugely.”
With inflation still raging and the president’s approval ratings slightly better but remaining low, how much Biden can help his party in top races — and how much candidates want him to try — remains to be seen.
That was on display in Milwaukee, where Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes is trying to unseat incumbent Johnson, but didn’t appear with Biden.
In the state’s other top race, Tim Michels, a construction executive endorsed by former President Donald Trump, is attempting to deny Democratic Gov. Tony Evers a second term.
Evers spoke at the labor event Biden addressed and briefly greeted the president backstage.
“We have a president who understands the challenges facing working families,” Evers told the crowd. He said Biden “hasn’t forgotten that working families matter, not just on Labor Day, but every single day of the year.”
Vice President Kamala Harris paid tribute to organized labor in at breakfast meeting with the Greater Boston Labor Council, declaring “When union wages go up, everybody’s wages go up.”
“When union workplaces are safer everyone is safer,” Harris said. “When unions are strong, America is strong.”
Associated Press writer Wilson Ring also contributed to this report.