PITTSBURGH — Ahead of this city’s Labor Day Parade Monday, Vice President Joe Biden sought to rally organized labor behind the campaign of Hillary Clinton, appearing alongside the man looking to take his place in Washington, Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine.
“This guy understands, he knows how to pronounce the word 'union,'” a loud, booming Biden said of Kaine. “Remember for a while there, we had Democrats that talked about organized labor. Union, union, union. Not a joke. Unions have built this country.”
The forceful message on behalf of America’s labor force was clear from both men as they spoke at a public, outdoor event in the middle of downtown Pittsburgh in front of more than 700 people, including a number of volunteers, union employees, and steelworkers.
Both the vice president and the senator charged hard against Donald Trump for what they see as actions unfriendly to labor, trying to paint the Republican nominee as a business mogul without regard for the kind of smaller businesses that they grew up around.
Biden, a native of Scranton, Pennsylvania, talked about “people who understand what it's like to look across a table in a bargaining room and know that the guy on the other side really doesn't respect you; know that there's so many people like Trump who look at us like we're not their equal. I'm sick of it. I've had it up to here.”
“Labor day is personal to me,” Kaine told the crowd. “It's personal to me. I grew up in a family where my dad ran an ironworker organized welding shop in the stockyards of Kansas City, Missouri. … It was about a partnership. It was about shared prosperity. It wasn't about a CEO disconnected from the workers.”
Kaine again blasted Trump for not releasing his tax returns, noting that it has been a custom for presidential candidates of the last few decades and likening Trump’s actions to a job interview candidate not fulfilling the questionnaire. Trump has said he will not release his tax returns while he is under audit.
“You wouldn’t hire somebody for a summer job who wouldn't answer your questions in a job interview, and he wants you to hire him to be President of the United States?” Kaine asked. “He thinks we're chumps. Donald Trump thinks he can blow this by us, that we're gullible. But I'll tell you: Pennsylvanians are not gullible. Virginians are not gullible. Americans aren't gullible.”
Since the vice president was the headliner, Sen. Kaine was speaking behind a podium with the vice presidential seal upon it, a symbol of the office he is working to take.
Back in 2008, Kaine, then the governor of Virginia, was actually a runner up to be President Barack Obama’s running mate but was passed over on behalf of Biden, then a senator from Delaware with more experience in foreign policy.
Kaine had glowing words for the vice president on Monday, telling the crowd that he feels like the two have a number of similarities -- both coming from working-class Irish Catholic families with faith as a vital part of their life.
Monday was their first appearance together since speaking on the same night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July, and the vice president showed up with a few jokes on hand.
“By the way, I sleep with a teacher every night, ” he quipped, while talking about unions and referring to his wife, Dr. Jill Biden. “Same one. Same one. Matter of fact, matter of fact she's in class again tomorrow.”
Biden also introduced himself by proclaiming, “My name is Joe Biden, and I work for Hillary Clinton, and whatever the hell this guy’s name is.”
But he soon turned to Kaine’s background and argued the senator is the right man to succeed him in his office in January.
“Two things you gotta know about Tim,” Biden said. “One is he has more experience in every branch of government than anybody's ever stepped into this job as Vice President, and two, two, Hillary is gonna really need him—not because she's not the smartest person to seek that office, she is, but because the plate is so full.”