PITTSBURGH — As speculation surrounding his potential presidential bid continues to swirl, Vice President Joe Biden rallied the faithful at a Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh on Monday.
Biden gave no hints at his thinking on a potential run, using his brief remarks only to rail against attacks on union workers and reaffirm the importance of union rights. A small contingent of union members erupted into chants of, “Run, Joe Run!” after he finished his speech.
“The Chamber of Commerce, they declared war on labor’s house…because you’re the only ones who have the power to keep the barbarians from the gate,” he told the crowd of about 300 union workers and supporters gathered for his speech.
He said that “without the ability to sit down with the most powerful entities in the world, without that ability to negotiate ... there is no shot for any American worker.”
Biden also characterized unions as key to the health of the middle class, telling the crowd that “as you decline, the middle class declines.” And he dove briefly into policy issues, hitting on the increase in income inequality and proposing eliminating the estate tax to help pay for free community college for all Americans.
“I hope everyone in America has a chance to become a millionaire ... but let me tell you something, man, the tax code is not fair,” he said.
But those looking for signals that the Vice President is ready to make another run for the White House may have been disappointed. Biden seemed somewhat distracted on Monday, meandering through notably disjointed remarks punctuated frequently with an affectionate “man” and dipping into an eastern Pennsylvania drawl at times.
“Folks, it’s too hot to go into more detail,” on tax reform, Biden said, “But here’s the bottom line: I’m hot, I acknowledge that. I’m mad, I’m angry.” He then took off his jacket and delivered the speech in a white polo.
It was just a taste of the freewheeling, unpolished delivery that has skeptics wary of a bid from “Uncle Joe,” who’s known as much for his colorful gaffes as he is the partial architect of President Barack Obama’s two terms in office.
It’s that very temperament, however, that has Biden fans clamoring for another run. Many of those fans were out in support on Monday, and a small crowd in the audience wearing blue and yellow United Steelworker shirts erupted into chants of, “Run, Joe Run!” after he finished his speech.
The two union presidents that spoke before Biden, USW President Leo Gerard and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, drove home the admiration union workers still hold for the son of a used car salesman. Gerard gave Biden a USW hat that the Vice President wore through his speech, and thanked the USW for their early endorsement in his first race for Senate, telling the crowd he wouldn’t be here if not for the union.
Trumka called him “a friend, a champion of working men and women,” and Gerard said that he’s been there for workers ever since his first election.
“Joe Biden has been the voice of working people because he’s never forgotten where he came from,” Gerard said.
Biden then walked in the parade with an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 union workers and supporters.