12:38 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Can I hear it for Orville? (Applause.) Thank you, Orville and for — for building — helping to build Philly and our country.
So, good afternoon, everyone. It’s good to be back and to see all the friends. Good afternoon. And —
AUDIENCE: Good afternoon!
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And it is always great to be in the House of Labor. Thank you, all. (Applause.)
And thank you, all, for the work that’s happening here. It is extraordinary work.
And there are so many leaders here who are making the announcements we are making today possible, but are really uplifting the workers of America, the families of America, the communities of America. You are the source of our nation’s strength. And you are tireless in this work. You work around the clock. You are fueled by optimism and knowing the capacity of our people and our country.
And so, on behalf of President Joe Biden and myself, thank you, thank you, thank you. (Applause.) Thank you.
To the members of Congress who are here, including my dear friend Senator Bob Casey and — (applause) — and the extraordinary Representative Madeleine Dean — (applause) — and to the members of our administration, including Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su. (Applause.)
And I just have to tell you about — I — I call her “Labor Secretary.” I’m not going to say the word “Acting.” I’ve known her for many years, and she is a true fighter for the working people and working families of America. Thank you. (Applause.)
It is also good to be here with the Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Joanna McClinton — Joanna McClinton. (Applause.)
The International President of NABTU, Sean McGarvey, where are you? (Applause.) There he is. Sean is a real partner and a dear friend to the President and to me and our administration. And I had the — the honor of spending a little time with Sean backstage, and he shared with me that his father actually worked here as a janitor. And he was trained here. Sean, we’ve come a long way. Haven’t we, brother? (Laughs.) Congratulations to you. (Applause.)
And I want to thank Jimmy Williams, Jr., the General President of IUA- — IUPAT — I-P-U-T — P-A-T — I-U-PAT. (Laughter.) Thank you. (Applause.) Had to spell that.
As many of you know, the President and I feel very strongly about the work we are doing with the partners who are here and the leaders who are here. This work is the work that is about believing in our country and its capacity. And a lot of the work that we have accomplished together in the last two and a half years is work that some people didn’t think could happen again in our country, which is investing in our workers and understanding the importance of the dignity of work.
As many of you know, in terms of my background, my parents met while they were protesting for civil rights. When I was a child, they would take us to the marches — me in a stroller. And at the very earliest stages of my life then, I learned the power of solidarity. That when we use our collective voice, whether at a protest or on a picket line, we can drive great change.
The belief in the power of solidarity has in- — has really guided me my whole career. And it guides our administration.
President Joe Biden and I are determined to lead the most pro-union administration in America’s history. (Applause.)
And we do so proudly. We do it proudly. Because, you see, we know, like all the leaders here know: When union workplaces are safe, it makes all workplaces safer. When union wages go up, everybody’s wages go up. And when unions are strong — and I say this as Vice President of the United States — when unions are strong, America is strong. (Applause.) We’re clear about that.
And so, I want to thank all the union workers here today for the work you do to help build a stronger America and, in particular, over the last two and a half years, for your work to help build back up America’s infrastructure.
Now, as many of you remember, before President Biden and I took office, America’s infrastructure was falling apart. For years, Americans had to drive to work, to school, to church on roads and bridges that had not been repaired in decades.
Millions of people around our country had the all-to-common experience of delays, detours, and potholes. And for many folks, that meant paying hundreds of dollars out of pocket, for example, to repair a flat tire, which we know car insurance does not cover.
Before we took office, millions of families, many living in rural communities, did not have access to high-speed Internet. Children had to sit in a McDonald’s parking lot to be able to have access to the public Wi-Fi to do their homework. Seniors had to take their private telemedicine appointments in a public library.
Before President Biden and I took office, for years parents and grandparents cried out about the issue of lead pipes, about the profound harm lead pipes do to the health and learning ability of our children. And for years, politicians promised to rebuild our infrastructure. Some even kept promising a certain week that never came about. (Laughter.) They did not deliver.
But President Biden and I decided to run for office because we believed it was time to fix all of this and to finally rebuild America, to repair our roads and bridges, to connect every home with high-speed internet, to replace every lead pipe in our nation, and to expand clean energy production.
And as a result, today, in places like Newark, New Jersey, plumbers and pipefitters are replacing lead pipes so our children have clean water to drink. In places like St. Cloud, Minnesota, CWA workers are building electric buses so people can get where they need to go. And all across our nation, workers are rebuilding our roads and bridges.
For example, in June, when a truck crash collapsed a section of I-95, the workers of Philadelphia, including many from the building trades who are here today, re-built and re-opened I-95 in less than two weeks. (Applause.) Less than two weeks.
And I know there are some TV cameras here, so I’m going to remind folks that those folks on TV were saying, “Oh, that repair could take months.” These workers did it in 12 days — (applause) — 12 days, which is further testament to the skills and the aptitude and the commitment and the diligence of the workers that we are talking about — most of whom come through some of the most extraordinary processes of education, which are called our apprenticeship programs.
And I want to shout out IBEW and everybody else — (applause) — who do that work. Some of the most highly skilled, highly educated people doing this work.
So, all of that is to say, today, across our nation, because of the investments President Biden and I have made, workers — America’s workers are building a safer, stronger, healthier, and more prosperous future for all of us. (Applause.)
So, let’s agree: These workers deserve our recognition and appreciation. And they deserve something more: They deserve a raise. (Applause.)
And so, that’s why we are here today. So, as many of you know, for nearly a century, wages for workers on federal projects have been set by a law called the Davis-Bacon Act. So, Davis-Bacon standards help determine the hourly wage for millions of American workers — union workers and non-union workers alike.
But here is the problem: Those standards have not been updated for 40 years. And as a result, many workers are paid much less than they deserve, much less than the value of their work. And not just by a little. In some cases, by thousands of dollars a year. And that is wrong, obviously, and completely unacceptable in a Biden-Harris administration.
We strongly believe every worker deserves fair wages for their work.
So, I’m here today to announce that we are updating this law and giving workers across the nation a raise. So just — (applause) — yes.
So as just one example: Right now, a heavy-equipment operator on federally funded construction projects, let’s say in Allegheny County, might earn about $17 an hour. After today, that worker could earn up to $28 an hour. (Applause.)
So that’s thousands of dollars more every year to help put a down payment on a home, for example, or to save for retirement or simply to take their family on vacation once a year.
And today’s announcement is part of a larger strategy. For far too long, our economy has not been working for working people. Trickle-down economics benefitted big corporations and the wealthiest Americans but not workers.
And you remember, years ago, how they would debate and talk about, “Oh, trickle-down economics, that’ll work for working people, because you see the benevolence of the — of the wealthy will trickle down on the rest of us.” (Laughter.) That’s where that trickle-down economics theory came from, right? That was what that was about. Well, there was no trickling. It didn’t happen.
So President Biden and I — well, we know that the way we’re going to build our economy is to invest in working people. And so, we have divided our resources among the various sectors of those who are actually building America. And you see that evident in the various labor unions that are represented here today, because we know that we must invest in the working people of America if we are to strengthen America’s economy.
And so, we are fighting to build a nation where every person, not just the wealthy or well connected, have the opportunity to thrive.
And that, all my friends here, is called Bidenomics. (Applause.) Bidenomics. And Bidenomics is working.
Today, the unemployment rate — okay, here’s the evidence: Today, the unemployment rate is near the lowest it has been in over half a century in our country. (Applause.) Wages are up, and inflation has fallen 12 months in a row. (Applause.) Think about that.
Since the President and I took office, we have created more than 13 million new jobs. That’s more jobs created in two and a half years than any administration has created in four. (Applause.)
And it includes nearly 500,000 jobs right here in Pennsylvania, many of which are good-paying, union jobs. (Applause.) Jobs for plumbers and pipefitters. Jobs for iron workers and sheet metal workers. Jobs for laborers and carpenters and Teamsters.
And as you might have seen recently, further evidence of how well Bidenomics is working is this: As a result of all this progress, some of the nation’s largest banks had to recognize — recognize the impact of our approach. Because understand and remember, we decided to invest in workers and in families instead of tax breaks for billionaires and corporations.
Do you remember the last administration? That’s what they did. We didn’t do that. (Applause.)
We invested in the workers and in working families. And when we did, recall, these fancy people used to say, “Well, a recession is inevitable.” Now, however, those same people acknowledge that President Biden and I have delivered strong and steady growth for our nation. (Applause.)
Our theory and our agenda around investing in folks like those who are here is working for America’s economy. This is about workers and it is about the strength of our nation and seeing the connection, which the leaders here know and fight for every day.
So, Philadelphia, I’ll say this: For me, so much of the work that we have done comes down, as I said earlier, to the importance of dignity.
I was raised by a mother who taught me as a child that there is dignity in all work, that every worker deserves respect, that every worker deserves a voice, and that every worker deserves to be paid a fair wage.
So, President Biden and I — with you, we’re going to keep fighting to build an economy that recognizes the dignity of all work and all workers, an economy that supports working families, and an economy that allows all people to thrive.
That is Bidenomics. And that is the future we are building together with everyone here.
I thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless America. Thank you. (Applause.)
END 12:57 P.M. EDT
Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2023/08/08/remarks-by-vice-president-harris-highlighting-investments-in-infrastructure-and-announcing-a-major-initiative-for-workers/