Former Vice President Joe Biden visited a Lancaster Township home to speak with a group of union workers to discuss the importance of unions in America’s workforce, as part of a Labor Day trip to Pennsylvania.
Biden met with three U.S. Army veterans from Pennsylvania who transitioned into union jobs through apprenticeships following their service, as well as a union leader.
“We need you to be our next president,” said Patricia Bowermaster, an American Federation of Government Employees Local 1156 member and U.S. Army veteran. Bowermaster discussed several executive orders that have diminished the unions’ abilities to properly collectively bargain for their employees.
Bob Faust, a U.S. Army veteran from Schuylkill County and retired union worker, credited the federal apprenticeship program connecting veterans to jobs after their service for his ability to pay for his children to attend college.
"Because of the decent wage we made, the living wage... I put through two daughters through college and another daughter through nursing school," Faust said. "I didn't need any help from the government, because I made a decent wage as a union ironworker."
Biden also hosted a virtual event later in the day with union leaders from the AFL-CIO’s headquarters on Second Street in Harrisburg.
During the Lancaster event, Biden discussed the need to fix America's infrastructure, improve the coronavirus pandemic response and support unions. He also discussed his work on the Recovery Act stimulus package in 2009, where he said he was able to spend $144 billion to fill state budget deficits to prevent layoffs for teachers, firefighters and police.
Biden hosted the event with veterans, as President Donald Trump continues to deny an article in The Atlantic that alleges Trump repeatedly disparaged American veterans who died in war and called them “suckers” and “losers.”
Biden came out to talk to the crowd pic.twitter.com/vN0RUrp25O— Gillian McGoldrick (@gill_mcgoldrick) September 7, 2020
Biden asked Howard Nash, a U.S. Army veteran and member of the National Guard, “Do you think most of those guys are suckers?”
“No,” Nash replied and shook his head.
Ahead of Biden's trip to Pennsylvania, the Trump campaign released a statement that a Biden presidency would be "a total and complete disaster for the working man and woman of Pennsylvania," a spokesperson said.
“Biden is incapable of delivering for Pennsylvanians while President Trump is leading us through the Great American Comeback,” spokesperson Michael Joyce said in the statement.
The group sat in a semi-circle in a tree-filled backyard, right next to a garden, and utilized social distancing and masks. Neighbors next door watched the conversation from behind the bushes, and a group of people from the neighborhood gathered across the street to cheer for Biden as he was leaving.
Biden came out to the applauding crowd as he was leaving to speak briefly, and accused Trump of undermining public confidence in his coronavirus response.
"If I could get the vaccine tomorrow, I’d do it. If it cost me the election, I’d do it," Biden told the group of approximately 25 residents from nearby homes. "We need a vaccine and we need it now."
In Pennsylvania and most other tightly contested states, Biden has held a steady lead in polls over President Donald Trump. But his lead slightly dipped recently, with Monmouth University and the CNBC/Change Research polls showing only a 3-point lead over Trump.
Pennsylvania was a key part of Trump’s 2016 win. He took the state by only 44,292 votes over Democrat Hillary Clinton for a total of 48% of the vote, with 60% voter turnout. Pennsylvania is expected to hold an equally important and decisive role in the 2020 presidential election, with the presidential nominees making almost weekly trips to the state. Last week Trump visited the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe, about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh.
Trump won Lancaster County in 2016 with 134,000 votes, or 57% of the vote, while Clinton received 89,000 votes, or 38% of votes, with approximately 70% voter turnout.
Lancaster County has long been ignored by Democratic presidential nominees until recent years. Only a few Democratic presidential candidates have made campaign stops in this longtime Republican stronghold since former President John F. Kennedy visited in 1960.
But Democrats have gained nearly 42,000 registered voters since 2000 for a total of 110,867 Democrats, while Republicans have added only 2,500 voters to their majority of 166,736 voters, according to Pennsylvania Department of State data.
Biden, a Scranton native, made a visit to Lancaster city in June for a conversation with a few families who have benefitted from the Affordable Care Act.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is making a stop at a Lancaster Township home, speaking with union members who are also U.S. Army veterans from around Pennsylvania. pic.twitter.com/hrsy0LBqd0— Gillian McGoldrick (@gill_mcgoldrick) September 7, 2020
Biden's second stop in the county, with less than 60 days before the election, illustrates the importance of every vote in Pennsylvania for the presidential election. Lara Trump made a stop in the county in August, and Vice President Mike Pence made a brief stop in July.
Biden visited the home of George Kerekgyarto and Susan Lithgoe. Lithgoe is the former owner of the now-closed George Street Cafe, which closed in April permanently due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Kerekgyarto said Biden asked him and his wife about the George Street Cafe and if it received enough federal aid.
As Biden was leaving, he inspected Kerekgyarto's motorcycle sitting outside the quaint house. Kerekgyarto said Biden told him he'd ridden his son's motorcycle for more than an hour.
"Jill was not happy," Biden told Kerekgyarto as he left his house.
Biden is wrapping up his convo and there’s a bunch of neighbors across the street waiting for him to leave pic.twitter.com/DPJMSCa6ZA— Gillian McGoldrick (@gill_mcgoldrick) September 7, 2020
Foster Clark and Jen Mulvaney, both of East Hempfield Township, were part of the group across the street hoping to see Biden.
Clark and Mulvaney are both University of Delaware alumni, and said they're "well-versed" in Biden's speeches, but this was the first time they were able to see him up close.
"It feels like he's caring about this county, which is neat," Clark said.