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Inside Politics

Joe Biden Delivers Remarks in Honor of Labor Unions; Joe Biden: When Unions Win, America Wins; Joe Biden: Government Should not be a Barrier to Workers Organizing; AAP: One in Four New COVID-19 Cases Now in Children. Aired 12-12.30p ET

Aired September 08, 2021 - 12:00   ET




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: People who keep this country up and running forward. I really mean this in serious -- political its reality. And I think people went whoa.

And instead of which was a good thing, banging pots and pans, when people came back from rescue and other folks make, they began to realize, you know, this part of the deal and use my dad's expression. And I mean it sincerely. Some few of you knew my dad.

He said everyone's entitled to be treated with dignity. That's what the Labor Union is all about dignity, provides dignity for people who deserve to be treated differently. And I want to thank Jocelyn, and I want to thank President - Madam President.

I know you didn't expect to be in this role at this moment. But as I told you before, I believe that the future of American labor is in very good hands, I really mean it, thank you.

Welcome, everyone to the White House. I really mean that. This is your house. It's not hyperbole. It's a fact. This is your house. I wouldn't be here without you. That's again, not hyperbole. In my White House, you will always be welcome. Always be welcomed labor. Always be welcome.

You know, you've heard me say many times, and I intend to be the most pro-union president, leading the most pro-union administration in American history. But I think one of the reasons I'm able to do that is the public is changing, too. You change the public; you've educated them a lot.

I want to thank the dues paying members of the labors. Marty - Marty Walsh (ph) was helping make sure that we keep the commitments across our entire journey. And before I go any further, I'd like to pause for a moment of silence, - a hundreds of union workers and essential workers who have died from COVID-19.

And honor a buddy John Sweeney, who we lost earlier this year in honor, truly dear friend, Rich Chunk a moment of silence place. Thank you. This is real. One of the things I admired about Rich is that he understood what people in this economy really facing.

He like most of you felt that his bones. He understood what had happened to workers in this country, like you do. I've got to know a lot of you really, really well. You just feel it. It tasted I understand. I get catered by my staff for all these years. And I say I trust the person most who arrived at the right decision.

When it starts in our gut, goes to their heart. And then they have the ability to articulate it because they - it goes to the brain. They're the ones that never back down. They're the ones who stay with you. The ones who arrive at intellectually, are the ones that are the ones who first - I welcome that.

But they're not the ones who are stay to the end. And, you know, Rich understood the past and the challenges, like so many of you who lived and lead through these moments. But he also understood the future. I think he understood who built this country. And the tools are needed to build it back and build a bank better.

You've heard me say it 100 times. We're the only country in the world that goes into a crisis. And when we come out of it, we're stronger than we were before we went in. That's by building back better. We're going to build back better. We have to, we must, we will, because that's who we are. That's what America is.

On Labor Day we honor the dignity American worker. And every day remember that America wasn't built by Wall Street. They're not all bad folks on Wall Street I'm not suggesting that - day in build America was built by the middle class. And unions built the middle class.


BIDEN: It gave workers a voice. When I was back from my Great Grandfather Blewett who was a mining engineer back in the days of the Molly Maguires, and all the way from retreated in Northeast Pennsylvania in the coal mines they gave people a voice.


BIDEN: Marla McGuire's was there a little tougher? He gave me a hard time he ended up on the doorstep in a bag. But you know, think about it? What are the basic things, my dad to say, you know, we just started to give people ability, just don't take a deep breath, have a little bit of breathing room. And what are those things?

Well, health care, a pension, God willing, higher wages in a safer workplace, and protections against discrimination and harassment. That's not asking too much. We fundamentally transformed how we live and how we work in this country.

The reason we have is because of victories won by labor. I'm going to be a bit repetitive the eight hour day weekend, you know, time and a half for overtime, safety standard sick days, victories for all of us, because I might add, you know, I noticed when you all do that, everybody benefits, whether they belong to a union or not. When unions win workers across the board win that's a fact families win, community wins, America wins, we grow despite this - been getting cut out of the deal for too long a time. You know, from 1948, after the war to 1979, productivity in America increased by more than 100 percent. While the pay for American workers grew by nearly 100 percent.

And then along came 1979 and everything began to change, productivity in the country has grown almost four times faster than pay since 1979. That means workers have been given much more to their employers bottom line than they've gotten back in their paychecks breaking the basic bargain of this country.

The bargain was if you work hard, and you contribute to the welfare of the outfit you work with, you got to share the benefits. Well, that stopped for a long time. So you can carve out your piece of the middle class and make it a possibility. That's what got taken away for a lot of people.

Instead, some people started seeing the stock market and corporate profits and executive pays the only measure for economic growth. By the way, the stock market has gone up exponentially since I've been president. You haven't heard me say a word about it. I'm glad it's gone up. No problem.

Look, let me tell you something. My measure economic success is how families like mine growing up working families busting their neck, how they're doing? Whether they have a little breathing room? Whether they have a job that delivers some dignity? A paycheck, they can support a family out?

In an economy - in an economy my administration is building instead of workers competing with each other for the jobs that are scarce. Everybody's mad at me because now guess what? Employers are competing to attract workers. I'm serious, think about that.

That kind of competition in the market helps workers earn higher wages, but also gives them the power to demand dignity and respect in the workplace. Simply put, worker power is essential to building our economy back better than before. It's a set basic to counter corporate power to grow the economy from the bottom up in the middle out.

I'm so tired of trickle down. I asked when is the middle class done better that the wealthy haven't done incredibly well. I can't think of a time that all - when the middle class is booming and movie, everybody does well. And you give workers even more power.

I also signed an executive order to improve competition in the economy, including calling for a ban on non-compete agreements that deny workers the right to change the job in the same field, even when there's no real reason for company to stop. It is all about suppressing wages. That's what it's about.

In Congress - when Congress passed the 1935 Labor Relations Act, it didn't just say you can have unions should be allowed. That's how it's kind of viewed for a long time. It said that we the government should encourage unions and collective bargaining, making it easier.


BIDEN: That's what it said. I believe every worker should have a free and fair choice to join a union the law guarantees that choice that belongs to workers not to their employers or to special interests. That's why I signed an executive order creating a White House taskforce on worker organizing and employment to facilitate that choice whenever and wherever we can.

Look, I want to thank Vice President Harris and Secretary Walsh Marty for leading that taskforce. That's why I want to see Congress passed the Pro Act and send it to my desk immediately. That's why I want us to extend organizing and collective bargaining rights to state and local government employees, like transit workers, first responders, healthcare workers and other essential workers.

And guess what the public seems to agree with that as well. Government should never be a barrier to workers organizing. It's government's job to remove those barriers. But it's up to workers to make the choice whether to organize or not whether to form a union or not. And we need to help them understand why that can be the right choice for them?

We know the economic reasons union members get higher wages, better benefits, like health insurance and paid leave protection against discrimination, harassment and safer and healthier workplace. But there's another reason a basic American reason, workers who join unions gain power, power over the decisions and decision makers that affect their lives.

Workers voices are heard and heated. In a simple word the Union means there is democracy, democracy, organizing, join a union, that's democracy and action. That's about dignity on the job, but it's also about creating good jobs.

When I came to office, our first job was to stop the economic bleeding. And it was the worst bleeding since Roosevelt. We passed the American Rescue Plan that delivered shots in arms and checks in pockets and provided that extra breathing room for working families. It helped state and cities keep essential workers on the job including educators, police officers, firefighters, sanitation workers.

And thanks to the part of the rescue plan named for Ohio Neighborhood of Butch Lewis, over a million retirees and workers across the country.


BIDEN: They can trust that the pensions they work for and sacrifices will be there for them.


BIDEN: The bipartisan agreement we reached to rebuild America's infrastructure, already putting hundreds of thousands of people who were cleaning plumbers, pipe fitters, electrical workers, steel workers, so many other union workers, modernizing roads, bridges, water systems, broadband system.

Capping abandoned oil and gas wells that are leaking over 100,000 on a making the same salary as digging that well, it creates jobs for American workers and makes our cities and towns more resilient and better able to meet the climate crisis and to keep those jobs here at home.

When your government spends the taxpayers dollar it's going to bind American goods made in America buy American workers.


BIDEN: Look, over the years, the Buy America Act became a hollow promise. It's been there for a long time. I'm going to make it a reality. The next stop - the next stop is dealing with the ability to pass the rest of my "Build Back Better" agenda. Once in a generation investments in our people, making housing more affordable bringing down the cost of prescription drugs by giving Medicare the power to negotiate for lower prices.

I want to thank Bernie Sanders for a lot of these making eldercare and childcare more affordable while improving the pay for homecare workers and childcare workers, providing paid family leave and medical leave so that no worker is forced to choose between their job and their caregiving responsibilities.

You've all fought through all these things, you got to make them available now you provide two years of free university high quality pre-K and high quality pre-K two years that are needed. It shows that if you send a kid to school at age three, four and five, they increased by 56 percent the possibility of no matter what the background that they'll go through school all 12 years and do well.


BIDEN: And when I asked well you know in the Obama Administration, I was asked to find out from the CEOs of the Fortune 500 what they most wanted? What they most need? What was their greatest concern? And over I think is don't hold me the exact number 348 or 47. I can't remember the number we got to.

Said the single most important thing is they needed a better educated public. But guess what? They weren't paying for it. And guess what? Does anybody think we're starting off from scratch? Setting up public education, we'd say 12 years is enough in the 21st century.

So look, we have to invest in high quality job training and apprenticeships and fast growing sectors compete to give middle class families well deserved tax cut for daycare and health care and provide a significant monthly tax cut for working families with children. That's what it is.

Everybody talks about my child tax credit. It is a tax cut for ordinary folks. That's part of that I want us to see us finally, provide "Dreamers", TPS recipients, farmworkers, essential workers a pathway to citizenship, bringing them out of the shadows so they can receive the protection and representation that our laws and our unions provide.


BIDEN: Folks, we're making progress. Our economy has added 750,000 jobs a month on average during the past three months since I've been. Over more than 4 million jobs since I took office. In the first half of this year, our economy grew fast at a fastest rate in 40 years.

Unemployment is down. My "Build Back Better" investments are going to allow us to keep in progress and move further in the years to come. Just I want to add one more thought in closing. Well, the pandemic has prevented me from traveling as much as I'd like.

I have had a chance to meet with many of your brothers and sisters many of you the proud UAW members building cars and trucks in Pennsylvania and Michigan and noting that the main big three have decided that long with the support of those unions building going electric, so we own that market.

Steel workers in Portsmouth Virginia, - Sherman and firefighters who Columbus asked me work as an Allentown IBEW workers and iron workers and nurses and grocery store workers in Cincinnati, plumbers, and gas fitters in Maryland. AFT teachers in Virginia, and by the way, of course, I sleep in any a member every night, say more.


BIDEN: Same one. As you had our first day of full time teaching yesterday, this year back to school. And look, I've talked with union transit workers, machinists, laborers, welders in Wisconsin, we've had teamsters here in the White House, and always the teamsters always have my back.

And last week, I met with the first responders in New Orleans, and a Monday I dropped by some of the IBEW linemen in Delaware, helped me recover from Hurricane IDA. You know, in the last year has taught us anything. It's what's essential. What's essential, is you, not a Joe you and your union members.

Wall Street could go on strike, but all of a sudden, the middle of this IDA every IBEW member resigned, we'd be in real trouble. I say that to make a generic point. I think we significantly underestimate and I think even you guys sometimes underestimate the incredible value you bring to the safety, security and growth of the economy.

You know, you're America's heart and you're America's soul. And we all need to fight as hard for them and work as hard for them as we can. And I want to say the press was very, very just a press. A lot of people were very, very skeptical that when I was talking about we had to deal with the environment, that labor would never help.

Well guess what? Labor's reasons work - labor stepped up, because they you all understand, and I made a promise and I'll keep it at what we're talking about here is when you think of global warming, think of jobs.

Jobs, all the jobs we're going to create making this once again, the fastest growing we are now the most competitive economy in the world.


BIDEN: So folks, you do it all. I'm sorry to go on so long, but I can't - I can't thank you enough for all you've done for the country, and what you've done for me over my career. You've educated me. You brought me along. And you've always been there.

Now, I suppose to stop and walk out of the room here. I'm going to stop with your permission, I'm going to walk into the room because I want to say hello, everybody, thank you.


JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello everybody. I'm John King in Washington. You're watching the President of the United States in the East Room there just delivering a speech to America's Labor Unions, labor leaders from a variety of unions brought into the White House.

The president saluting them, of course, just a few days after Labor Day, calling union workers the backbone of the American economy, also using that platform at the White House to promote his economic agenda. Both the agreements already struck with Congress and his plans going forward.

More on those a bit later in the program but tomorrow, the president will use that same platform the White House for a big speech to try to reset the administration's response to the Coronavirus pandemic. He will do so at a time of a rising case count and look at this one alarming new statistic.

One in four new COVID infections are now in children, one in four. This fall remember was supposed to bring a turn for the better a virus in retreat, a country smarter about how to manage it at schools at the office at the ballpark or at the stadium?

But COVID School shutdowns and quarantines are back coast to coast again. Hospitals are in crisis mode again, so much so the army is now deploying medical teams to Idaho, Arkansas and Alabama to help. ICU beds are scarce almost everywhere and so our ICU nurses.

President Biden is meeting with his COVID team later today to finish work on that new pandemic plan he will outline tomorrow. Sources tell us it includes new steps on vaccine mandates and on testing. Cases in Kentucky hit a new high last week and just last hour, its governor framed the president's challenge.


GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): We have hospitals -- of all we have tents set up to triage people outside of them. We've called in FEMA strike teams, the National Guard; we've deployed nursing students all over the state. We've taken over testing from hospitals just to free up additional people. But we've had more people test positive than ever before. The Delta variant is really aggressive. It is really dangerous. We're going to see some form of this all over the country. We just really need people to get vaccinated.


KING: Let's put what you heard from the Kentucky Governor there and the president's challenge in national context. Again, back to this statistics, one in four new COVID cases now. One in four new COVID cases now are among our children, right?

If you take a look at it this way, look at this spike. Look at this spike for months and months we've been told relatively low risk, the risk is still low. But as adults get vaccinated, just look more than 250,000 more than a quarter million COVID cases in children reported in last week's data and with rising cases, just like adults, if you have a rising case count, you have a rising hospitalization count.

COVID-19 hospitalizations among our children approaching 2500 across the country right now, this is part of this overall. There we go up again in cases now yesterday's data 154,000 that down a little bit. There is some evidence that perhaps there's at least a plateauing of cases, but we're waiting for the Labor Day impact to kick in as well.

So perhaps down a little bit as we wait. But the key to pushing this down even more is ramping up vaccinations, but just look at the numbers. The numbers do not lie. At the beginning when vaccines came available, those who wanted them eagerly lined up nearly 30 million here, nearly 50 million here 34 million in May.

But look at the last couple of months as the Delta variant has grown as the administration has urged Americans who are not vaccinated, please, please do your part. 9.6 million People became fully vaccinated in July; just 9.7 million in August so stagnant at best slight growth there.

At this point, let's bring in to share our expertise and our insights Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, Professor of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Dr. grateful for your time today. You see us approaching and I think the Governor of Kentucky just laid it out clearly as well.

You see us approaching a tipping point because of all the pressure you see in the healthcare system explain?

DR. JEANNE MARRAZZO, PROFESSOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA, BRIMINGHAM: Absolutely. You know, we are and continue to be in crisis mode and you're seeing state after state with the lowest vaccination rates and the highest incidence of COVID now facing that surge that unfortunately we've been predicting all along, right?


DR. MARRAZZO: We know as you pointed out in your visuals, John that cases go up and then about 10 days later we see hospitalizations go up and then about two weeks later, unfortunately, we start to see deaths go up. And that's exactly what we're seeing.

The challenge here is that the median age of people who are hospitalized, is about 10 years younger than what we saw previously. So you're seeing a lot of young, otherwise healthy people in our ICU that makes people want to fight very hard to save these people, right?

They really, really need a lot of support. They need ECMO, they need ventilators, you want to try to get them through this that is putting an incredible strain on staff and infrastructure. So it's a very challenging situation all around.

KING: Well, and you know, there's a staff shortage number one in many of these ICU units. I'm showing here states with 10 percent or fewer of their ICU beds left. They include your State of Alabama, which says it's at full capacity, essentially people waiting Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Texas, out into Idaho, you have - you have - you don't have enough nurses.

You have overstretched ICU systems, and you have health care workers who are flat out exhausted.

DR. MARRAZZO: All of that is totally true. You know, we are now drawing on our reserves for people to cover the ICU. The other challenge, of course, is that when you have this much virus circulating in the community, it's kind of inevitable that many of your healthcare workers are going to get infected, even if they were vaccinated fully to start with, right?

We're seeing a lot of breakthrough infections with Delta. It's not as bad as if you were unvaccinated for sure. But that still means that you've got to stay home from work for 10 days, right? So we're really decimating the ranks of our health care workers, in addition to stressing them out with all of this very intense demand.

KING: So help me understand this part. This is I'm speaking fully selfishly, now I'm going to drop a 10 year - 10 year old off at school tomorrow. His school is doing a fantastic job. But when I see these numbers, one in four cases now among children, and then you look at these numbers, the case count going up like this.

We know this can be done safely. If you're vaccinated those who can't be vaccinated, my son can't be yet my youngest. If you're vaccinated if you were a mass in the like, but what - how do you - what is your take on this, especially in the part of the country where you live, where a lot of policymaker say, you don't need a mask?

DR. MARRAZZO: Right. So this really comes down to a couple of things. You've got to assess your individual risk, and in your case, right, your son's individual risk, because I think it comes down to each of us sort of finding out where we can go and how we can do it?

So for your son, if he's going to a place that is really good about masking if the teachers are vaccinated, and if they have had a relatively good record I think it's good. I think it's great to get kids back in the classroom. The challenge really is when parents are being asked to put kids in places where those safeguards are just not guaranteed.

And that is a very, very frightening thing for parents. One of the things I hope we hear from President Biden tomorrow is the timeline for vaccinations for younger kids because I don't think until we get young kids vaccinated, we're ever really going to stop this cycle.

KING: Amen to that Dr. Marrazzo, grateful as always for your insights, especially on this day as we wait to hear from the president. And with me in studio to continue the conversation and share the reporting and their insights, CNN's Dana Bash and Kaitlan Collins, Eva McKend National Politics Reporter.

And the doctor tees it up quite nicely in the sense that what will we hear from the president at a time of many parents, myself and Ms. Bash included? You know, this is it. This is for past Labor Day. Now everybody's back in school, if your kid is under the age of 12 cannot get a vaccine. You're wondering.

So we know the president tomorrow is going to talk about schools. He's going to talk about private companies. He's going to talk about federal employees and we're going to get more on mandates and testing specifically, Kaitlan, what new, you don't have a big speech like this if the current plan is working?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. The White House knows it's not working. Because remember, it was not that long ago that President Biden came out and talked about what this summer they were hoping was going to look like. And he added caveats at the time, but it still looks a lot different than what they had expected.

And so that's why you are going to see the president give this speech tomorrow. They're building it internally, it's a pretty big speech substantive about what exactly they are hoping they can do to actually change this stone vaccination rate that we're seeing across the U.S. that is fueling what we're seeing with the questions about hospitals.

And so they're saying it's a six pronged approach. I think there are real questions about what they can do that actually moves things and changes things? Whether or not this is an incremental speech that the president is going to deliver?

Because you just laid out several of the things there we know things like nursing homes, and vaccinations required for those staffers who work there. Things like that will be included. But the levers of the federal government are tricky here. And they still don't think they can order some kind of broad mandate for vaccinations.

And I think the question about when students and children under 12 are going to be able to get them is a massive one because kids are already going back to school. Some are starting this week some have already started going back to school. And so I think those are the tangible things they'll be looking at.

KING: And the question is, again, we just saw the president using his bully pulpit of the White House to talk about the economy. We're going to come back to that later on his agenda.