Sun 21 Sep, 2008 09:49 am
Biden: McCain helped cripple labor movement
Posted on Sat, Sep. 20, 2008
By BOB LEWIS, Associated Press Writer
CASTLEWOOD, Va. -- Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden said Saturday that Republican John McCain has helped President Bush destroy regulatory safeguards for the middle class in general and the labor movement in particular.
Biden, a Delaware senator, told hundreds of cheering coal mining families at a United Mine Workers picnic that McCain went along with Bush in putting anti-labor, corporate interests in charge of the U.S. Labor Department and the National Labor Relations Board.
"Do any of you doubt that this administration has anything else in mind than doing in the labor movement?" Biden asked.
Biden's visit was the third since June by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama or him to the rural, blue-collar southwestern tip of Virginia, now a battleground state. It hasn't backed a Democrat for president in 44 years.
Biden linked McCain and Bush in blame for high fuel costs, declining health benefits for workers and veterans, and a troubled stock market.
"This president has us engaged in three wars - one of necessity in Afghanistan and one of choice in Iraq," Biden said. "But he also has been at war on labor's house since the day he was elected."
He said veterans have faced substandard medical care and educational benefits under the administration, and that when Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., sought to improve them by introducing a new GI Bill, McCain said the bill was too generous.
McCain said he opposed the bill because it might encourage people to leave the military while the country is fighting two wars. He joined Republican colleagues in proposing a bill to tie increased education benefits to length of service, but Senate Democrats blocked it from coming to a vote.
Biden also read comments attributed to McCain in a trade publication in which he called for reducing regulation for health insurance markets the way the banking industry was deregulated in the past 10 years. Obama referred to the same comments during his appearance in Florida.
That approach, Biden said, would expose health coverage for workers to the disastrous results that subprime mortgages wrought on the lending industry.
McCain spokesman Ben Porritt responded to Biden's criticisms by saying Obama supports "taking away a worker's right to secret ballots. John McCain wants to protect the democratic rights of those who unionize by preserving their ability to choose and vote freely."
Actually, the bill supported by Obama and opposed by McCain would make it easier to unionize. The bill would allow employees to form a union when a majority in the workplace sign union cards, without having to go through a second step - a secret ballot vote that companies now can demand. Many employers oppose the bill because they say workers who don't want a union could be intimidated into signing up for one without the cover of a secret ballot.
Biden voiced economic populism in an Appalachian region that takes in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia where Hillary Rodham Clinton dominated Obama in the primaries. Obama crushed Clinton in Virginia's primary, but in the rugged "Fightin' 9th" Congressional District in the state's southwestern tip, she beat him by a 2-to-1 ratio.