Biden touts ‘first class’ labor after calling on Congress to intervene in rail strike

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President Joe Biden speaks about manufacturing jobs and the economy at SK Siltron CSS, a computer chip factory in Bay City, Mich., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) Patrick Semansky/AP

Biden touts ‘first class’ labor after calling on Congress to intervene in rail strike

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Familiar lines from President Joe Biden’s stump speech about the importance of labor during an appearance at a Michigan semiconductor manufacturing facility chafed with his call on Congress to force railroad unions to accept a new deal.

“We’re making things here in America and we’re shipping them overseas, instead of shipping jobs overseas,” Biden said Tuesday at SK Siltron CSS’s expanded Bay City site.

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Hyping “world-class, high-skilled, highly committed” American workers, particularly International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers members, Biden also promoted the bipartisan $280 billion Chips and Science Act, legislation that was passed after SK Group Chairman Tony Chey announced last July he planned to invest more than $50 billion in electric vehicle battery, biotechnology, and semiconductor production stateside.

Biden’s economic-focused speech not only provided a split screen between the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team’s victory over Iran at the World Cup, but it was also delivered hours after he publicly called on Congress to pass legislation to immediately adopt a tentative deal between rail workers and operators “without any modifications or delay,” in order to avoid a “potentially crippling” national shutdown.

“As a proud pro-labor president, I am reluctant to override the ratification procedures and the views of those who voted against the agreement,” he wrote in a statement Monday. “But at this critical moment for our economy, in the holiday season, we cannot let our strongly held conviction for better outcomes for workers deny workers the benefits of the bargain they reached, and hurl this nation into a devastating rail freight shutdown.”

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The Biden administration was pivotal in brokering the deal and celebrated the tentative agreement last September with a White House Rose Garden event. But the deal, which included a 24% pay increase over five years and another paid day off for railway workers, was not unanimously approved by the 12 affected unions.

“I’m confident. I’m confident,” Biden told reporters Tuesday morning in the Roosevelt Room when asked if he believed he could avert a rail strike.

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