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Biden Kicks Tail in Most Worker-Centric State of the Union Speech in Memory

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“Wall Street didn’t build America. They’re not bad guys, they didn’t build it though. The middle class built this country. And unions built the middle class.”

As part of a narrative-changing State of the Union speech, President Biden last week centered working people in his review of amazing accomplishments and prescription for a better nation during his State of the Union speech.

 From life-and-death matters of foreign policy and life-and-death matters of insurrection to the cost of insulin and the size of Snickers bars and bags of potato chips, Biden’s remarks set the record straight against the noxious bluster and outright lies of his immediate “predecessor,” never mentioned by name. 

 The size of candy bars is not a trivial matter. In discussing “shrinkflation,” banking policies, and other topics of immediate interests to consumers, Biden sought to sit at the kitchen table of working families and let them know he gets it: Despite huge improvements in macroeconomic numbers like the inflation and unemployment rates, Americans will judge the economy at the microeconomic level of how it affects their everyday lives.

 The atmospherics of the speech were outstanding. Biden’s entrance, which ranks among the longest in SOTU history, put on display his personal touch on both sides of the aisle as he engaged with close allies and intractable political enemies. He pulled off a high-speed, winding-curve feat of improvising in response to heckling by far-right Republicans. With age, his understanding of eternal political verities showed.

 Biden implicitly (repeated use of “fair shot” language, for example) and explicitly made it clear he sees unions as a path to better livelihoods. 

No State of the Union speech has ever had as many direct and indirect mentions of labor unions. We have had too many presidents, who in the immortal words of former Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller, “have never put the words ‘labor’ and ‘union’ in the same sentence.”

A major bonus as we watched last week's event unfold was the ability to view the proceedings through the prism of the invitation by U.S. Rep. Greg Casar, D-Austin, to Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy to watch the State of the Union speech in the U.S. Capitol.

 It was the first time the Texas AFL-CIO has ever been physically present at a State of the Union speech. With Casar as guide, Levy touched base with AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, also a guest, and union members from around the nation, including Houston Federation of Teachers President Jackie Anderson.

 As you can see on our social media (for example, and, Casar’s graciousness as a host (and the work of his amazing staff) are in evidence. As part of a brilliant day, Casar brought Levy afterward to U.S. House media to discuss his reaction to the speech. 

 “Right now, the state of our unions is vibrant and growing,” Levy said. “When [President Biden] talks about growing the economy out from the middle, and putting workers at the center of it, to me millions of people feel seen, feel heard and feel like, yes, they have somebody fighting for them in the White House.”

 Levy said a central part of the speech focused on “How can we lift up working people?” The subtext: “Don’t get distracted by the shiny objects and the intentional misinformation. Listen, pay attention, and let’s organize and win together.”

 “This is an amazing thing,” Levy said. “The Texas AFL-CIO has never been invited to be at a State of the Union address before, and I think it’s a reflection of Congressman Casar’s commitment to working people that he reached out and out of anybody, he selected our organization to be represented here. And that’s because he’s not separate from, but he is of the labor movement…There is no better friend than they have here in Congressman Greg Casar.”