News Journal: Biden, Rivals Pledge Their Support to Labor
By NICOLE GAUDIANO
Seven Democratic presidential candidates pledged their support for organized labor and protecting the middle class Wednesday during a forum hosted by the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO.
Most of the candidates, all vying for labor endorsements, touched on similar themes throughout the three-hour event: the need for universal health care, affordable college tuition, prevailing wages for federal construction projects and bringing troops home from Iraq.
"The future of this country's economic stability rests upon the growth, not the diminishment of the union movement," said Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware.
Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina told delegates that his mother, father and brother all wouldn't have health care if not for the benefits unions provide. He got one of several standing ovations when he said he would pay for universal health care by rolling back tax cuts for the wealthy.
"I'm about big, bold ideas because that's what America needs," Edwards said.
Several candidates talked about the need for the Davis Bacon Act, a law requiring prevailing wages for public works projects, and Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut blasted the White House for rolling it back after Hurricane Katrina. "Shame on them," he said three times.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York pledged to give the Department of Labor the funding it needs to update every wage determination in America "so our workers get paid what they deserve."
The forum, part of a three-day event that brought 2,500 delegates to Washington, was de- signed to give delegates a "first impression" of the candidates, said Edward C. Sullivan, president of the mostly Democratic group. Other Democrats attending included New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.
Several Republican candidates were invited, but did not accept.
While candidates focused on labor issues, the delegates also responded to talk about ending the war. Biden called Iraq "one big, great boulder in the middle of the road" for the next president.
"This war must end," he said, drawing a standing ovation.