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vice president biden at afl-cio labor day picnic Vice President Joe Biden speaks at an AFL-CIO Labor Day picnic, on Monday, September 5, 2011, at Coney Island in Cincinnati. (Photo: AP Photo/Al Behrman)

Vice President Defends Labor Unions

Joe Biden delivers fiery speech at Labor Day picnic

By Meggie Zahneis | null null , null

At a Labor Day picnic in Cincinnati, Ohio, Vice President Joe Biden delivered an impassioned message that America needs its labor unions.

In a fiery speech to a crowd of union members, Biden called on voters to stand up for organized labor. Ohio is one of the states where Republican governors and state legislatures have put forth bills targeted at shrinking the influence of unions.

"It's time to turn the tide in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, and it seems to me that's exactly what you're doing here in Ohio," Biden said. "This is about respect. This is about being treated as equals, It's about the dignity of average, hardworking Americans. Above all, it's about basic fairness."

Biden made his remarks at the AFL-CIO Labor Day Picnic, which was held at Coney Island. The AFL-CIO is a group of 56 labor unions representing 12.2 million Americans.

America has a rich history of labor unions. They protect workers and set standards for fairness and equality in the workplace. Labor Day is annual celebration of the history of organized labor in this country and the people still in unions today.

"Labor Day is not just a day, it's a way of life," Vice President Biden said.

This year, Labor Day found unions in states like Wisconsin, Florida, and Ohio struggling with state governments seeking to reduce the influence of unions.

These plans have met with stiff resistance. When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker proposed eliminating collective bargaining in the state, thousands of protesters massed at the state capitol in protest. (Collective bargaining gives workers the right to fight for things like higher wages and shorter workdays as a group rather than as an individual.)

"If the attacks against unions and America's middle class are successful, we will find ourselves back in the days when people worked without vacation, when they worked overtime without compensation, and even children would be required to work and there were no laws against that," Cincinnati City Councilman Wendell Young told the Kids Press Corps. "Unions are extremely important, and America must unite behind the unions and keep them strong."

Adding to the sense of urgency for union members is the high unemployment rate and low job growth currently afflicting the country.

Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report that said zero net jobs were created in August. Originally, some experts predicted that around 60,000 jobs would be created.

When asked by the Kids Press Corps about his reaction to the jobs report and what the country needs to do to stimulate growth, Vice President Biden referred to the speech President Barack Obama will deliver to the joint session of Congress on Thursday. The President is expected to outline multiple proposals for getting the country's economy back on track.

Many people in attendance at Monday's picnic — from labor union officials to union members to local politicians — said they were anxiously awaiting the President's address.

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