REMARKS BY VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS AT THE UNITED STEELWORKERS CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION
By: Office of Vice President
MGM Grand Marquee Ballroom
Las Vegas, Nevada
11:35 A.M. PDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning, steelworkers! (Applause.) (Laughs.) Oh, it’s good to be in the house of labor. Have a seat. Please have a seat.
Good morning. Good morning. It’s good to be with everyone. And I thank you. I am here to thank you. On behalf of Joe Biden, myself, our country, thank you, United Steelworkers, for all that you are, all that you’ve always been, and all that you do.
I want to thank the International Vice President, Roxanne Brown, for that introduction and — and the work we’ve all been doing together.
Mariana, it is so good to see you again. And, of course, the International President, Tom Conway, thank you for your leadership of this incredible organization, and your voice and your vision, which has been so valuable to the entire labor movement.
And to all the members of the United Steelworkers, thank you for the work that you do every day to keep our nation running and to move our nation forward. And thank you for always standing in solidarity with workers everywhere, because that’s who you are.
As many of you know, I was born in Oakland, California. And when I was a child, my mother drove this yellow Dodge Dart. And I remember — my sister and I, we’d be sitting in the back seat, driving up 101 across the Golden Gate Bridge from time to time.
And I remember, as a child, staring in awe at the towers, at the sweeping cables of the Golden Gate Bridge, thinking — because I learned about its history — thinking, “What a magnificent sight”; thinking, as a child, “Well, if America could build that, we can build anything.”
The Golden Gate Bridge is, without question, a monument to the potential of our country. And the Golden Gate Bridge was made with USW steel — (applause) — just like the skyscrapers of New York City, the bridges of Pittsburgh, the assembly lines of Detroit, and the oil fields of Texas.
USW Steel built our nation. (Applause.) And USW organizing built our middle class. (Applause.)
For decades, USW workers fought for a living wage, for company-funded pensions, and for job security. You fought to make our workplaces more safe, more fair, and more productive.
In Cleveland, Ohio; in Gary, Indiana; in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, this union made it possible for millions of Americans, whether they were a member of a union or not — they need to realize that — you made it possible for millions of Americans to fight for their rights and their benefits, such that they could buy a home, build a family, and retire with dignity.
You — (applause) — you did that. You created prosperity and opportunity. And you helped make America the most powerful nation in the world. (Applause.)
And I’m going to tell you something. I — I have now, as Vice President, talked directly — in person or by phone — with at least 100 heads of state from around the world — presidents, prime ministers, kings. And when they look to who we are as America and they applaud our success and our prosperity, they do so understanding, if Joe and I are telling it, that the strength of America is because of the workers of America and the protection of workers of America and the recognition of the dignity of the work that those workers do. (Applause.)
So all of that is who you are, and we should always remember our history. And to remember our history, we also remember that toward the end of the 20th century, as a result of global economic trends and trade policies that did not adequately protect American workers, our nation’s economy began to shift.
America began to export less and import more. Factories that communities had depended on for generations started to shut their doors. And union membership across industries began to decline.
This organization — USW — saw these challenges, and you overcame them.
In the face of incredible odds, you responded with incredible resilience. You continued to fight for workers and to fight to move our nation forward. And today, as you have for generations, the USW is building America’s future.
Across our nation, you are organizing workers in industries that have never been unionized before — museum workers, tech workers.
And last year, as you heard, I was in Pittsburgh with my dear friend, our dear friend, Secretary Marty Walsh — a great champion of working people — where he and I met with a group of Google contractors, programmers who code.
And in 2019, those workers had voted to form a union, as you know. But nearly two years later, after a lot of negotiation, they still did not have a contract.
Those workers, during our visit, told us about what we all here know. They told us about the power, the self-determination that people feel when they vote to unionize. They talked about the importance of solidarity.
And they talked about you. They talked about how the United Steelworkers was with them every step of the way, which is why — (applause) — one month after that meeting, those workers signed their contract with Google — (applause) — and became one of the first tech unions in our nation.
This is the work you do. And this victory is part of a larger story.
Today, we see the beginning of a new era in the American labor movement, led by you, standing on the shoulders of the great leaders who fought, who bled for the strength of this movement — a new era, an era in which workers of every age, every race, every gender, every profession have the opportunity to benefit from the power of solidarity.
The USW is charting that new era. You are fighting for better wages, safer working conditions, stronger protections against harassment and discrimination. And every day — I see it; I’m traveling our country — every day, you are fighting to make sure that workers always have a voice and that the dignity of their work is always respected.
And let us be clear, like I said before: Everyone benefits from that work, because when union wages are up, everybody’s wages go up; when union workplaces — (applause) — are safer, all workplaces are safer; and when unions are strong, America is strong. (Applause.)
You’re doing it.
So, let me say, steelworkers — so, you know, when President Joe Biden and I — when we took office, we made a promise to you and to the American people. We vowed that we would address the urgent crises of today — the pandemic, the economic crisis, the climate crisis.
But we also vowed to implement our vision for America’s future — a future in which every person has the opportunity to succeed and to thrive.
And in the last 18 months, we have made clear, because of your help, the future — just reflect on the past 18 months. In those 18 months, our nation created more than 9 million jobs, making up for every job that we lost during the pandemic.
Today — (applause) — unemployment is at its lowest rate in half a century, in part because of the historic investment we made to support small businesses during the pandemic — beauty salons, daycare centers, family-owned restaurants — that were about to close but that the President and I believed in. And we invested billions of dollars to help keep their doors open.
In our first year in office, we extended the Child Tax Credit. You know what that meant? We cut child poverty in America by 40 percent in the first year. (Applause.)
And we passed a tax cut to give parents up to $8,000 for the cost of raising a child. That means putting more money in that parent’s pocket for the cost of food, medication, and school supplies for their children.
Through our White House Labor Task Force, which you’ve heard about, led with Marty Walsh, we have torn down barriers to organizing.
And this year, our administration did — and this is something we are particularly proud of — did the long-overdue work to protect pension plans for millions of union workers. (Applause.) Long overdue. Long overdue. Benefiting 120,000 members of this organization — that was because of your help, because you believed in our collective vision about what is in the best interests of the workers of America.
With your support, our administration made the largest investment in our nation’s infrastructure in a generation. So many people promised to do it; we did it. (Applause.)
And today, you are helping to bring that investment to the people of our nation — we did it in D.C.; you all are taking it to the streets — be it in roads, in high-speed Internet, or in clean water.
Just think about it: Today, USW cement workers in Union Bridge, Maryland, produced the materials we are using to rebuild our roads and bridges and ports and airports.
One great example: the Harry Reid International Airport right here in Nevada.
Today, USW production workers in Corning, New York, manufacture the fiber-optic cables that we are using to connect — to fulfill that promise — every household in our nation with high-speed Internet.
We know what that means. Remember, during the height of the pandemic, all of the children and their families who otherwise did not have access or could not afford high-speed Internet, the seniors who needed telemedicine but na- — may not have had high-speed Internet? You’re doing that work.
Today, USW metal workers in Tyler, Texas, are making the pipe that we will use to replace every lead pipe in our nation.
Why is that important? Because far too many of our babies in America are drinking toxic water from those lead pipes. (Applause.)
And to make sure that USW facilities across the country can run at full capacity, our administration just boosted production of semi-conductors, which will be made right here in America. (Applause.) And one of the benefits is it will also then boost the American auto industry to manufacture, here in America, more cars and trucks and buses right here.
Steelworkers, you are one of the largest unions in the automotive supply chain. I don’t need to tell you that. And for you then, this work will mean more jobs, more job security, and better pay. (Applause.)
So, the President and my vision for the future also means lowering costs for Americans. Today, we learned that last month our economy had zero percent inflation.
In July, we saw a drop in gas prices and a range of other goods, like clothing and airfares and household appliances, which means more money in the pockets of working families. Combined with the fact that our nation created more than half a million jobs last month, it is clear that our nation is making progress.
Now, we still know there’s more work to be done to make sure that working families can get ahead and stay ahead, which is why, very soon, our President, Joe Biden, will sign into law another piece of our agenda, which is we will cap the cost of insulin for seniors at $35 a month — (applause); reduce health insurance costs for 13 million Americans by an average of $800 a year; and allow — I’m saying to a bunch of labor leaders — and allow Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs. (Applause.)
And here’s what that means. Think about it. If you think of America as just being one big organization, the ability to represent more than 60 million Americans, which is how many are enrolled in Medicare right now, with the strength of bargaining power, Medicare will now negotiate with the pharmaceutical companies to lower the prices for all Americans. (Applause.)
And you all are the authors of the strength of bargaining power, so you know what I’m talking about.
In addition to lowering the cost of healthcare, we are also bringing down energy costs — in part, by giving working families as much as $8,000 to upgrade the HVAC system in their home. That’s lower energy bills and cleaner air. (Applause.)
Our work will also make new and used electric vehicles thousands of dollars cheaper so that more working people can afford a plug-in hybrid or electric car and pay less — or nothing — at the pump.
So these investments are the largest our nation has ever made to address the climate crisis. And these investments will create millions of good-paying jobs — including good, union jobs. Jobs. (Applause.) Union jobs for workers who will forge the steel we need to produce wind turbines and solar panels. Jobs for rubber workers, aluminum workers, glass workers who will make the parts that are needed for these millions of electric vehicles, and jobs for the autoworkers who will manufacture those vehicles.
And jobs all across America, in steel towns and in coal country, and jobs in communities with skilled workers who are ready, willing, and able to continue building our nation’s future.
And if folks ask you all, “Well, how do they plan on paying for all of this?” — please let them know: As we promised, we will not raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year, but this will be paid for.
Because, you see, our nation’s largest corporations will now start to pay their fair share. (Applause.) We’re getting some stuff done. (Laughs.) We’re getting some stuff done.
So, steelworkers, we are here together with determination and resilience to meet the challenges of the moment and to invest in the future of our nation. And we are guided by the spirit of this labor union and we are guided by the ambition of our nation: to always push forward, to always fight for a more fair, more equal, and more just future.
America has a job to do. And to get it done, we need you.
So please continue to do what you do so well. Continue to build coalitions of workers of all ages and races and backgrounds. Continue to activate and organize new communities. Continue to fight for the future of our nation. And I promise you, our administration will be with you every step of the way.
God bless you. And God bless America. (Applause.)
END 11:57 A.M. PDT