Biden touts clean energy manufacturing and union jobs in visit to Philadelphia

President Joe Biden touted his administration’s efforts to boost clean energy manufacturing and create union jobs in a speech Thursday in Philadelphia.

Earlier in the day, the White House announced the first offshore wind lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico, which it says will have enough clean energy potential to power nearly 1.3 million homes.

“When I think climate, I think jobs,” Biden said during his speech. “I think union jobs. Not a joke.”

Biden had visited the Philly Shipyard after he attended a steel-cutting ceremony to mark the construction of a new offshore wind vessel earlier in the day.

President Joe Biden speaks about his economic plan at a shipyard in Philadelphia on July 20, 2023.
President Joe Biden speaks about his economic plan at a shipyard in Philadelphia on July 20, 2023. Mandel Ngan / AFP – Getty Images

The power generators will bring about an estimated $125 million in economic activity every year, and 1,000 workers across nine unions have been employed to build them, using steel plates made by the United Steelworkers in Indiana, the White House said.

“All this investment means good paying jobs here at home, here at home,” Biden said. “We’re making sure these new jobs come free and fair and the ability to join a union if you’re not already in one.”

The president’s focus on unions comes as the potential for additional strikes loom over his 2024 re-election campaign.

On Wednesday, Biden held a short meeting with Shawn Fain, president of the United Auto Workers union, a White House official said. UAW leadership had asked to brief White House senior staff on their analysis and positions in relation to negotiations with the Big Three automakers — General Motors, the Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis. Fain has said that the UAW is willing to strike against those companies.

UPS workers have also threatened to strike as Teamsters leaders, who represent UPS workers, negotiate a new labor contract. Meanwhile, the national board of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, also known as SAG-AFTRA, voted unanimously to go on strike this month, after the Writers Guild of America had already went on strike.

Biden has frequently referred to himself as the most pro-union president in history. “I made a commitment that I’d be the most pro-union president in American history, and I’m keeping that promise,” the president said Thursday.

Despite his administration’s efforts to promote the president’s “Bidenomics” agenda, his economic approval rating has risen only slightly, by 3% in April, to 37%, according to CNBC’s new All-America Economic Survey.

This summer, high level administration officials spread out over the country to tout Biden’s economic agenda as part of the Investing in America tour. The president delivered a speech on Bidenomics on July 6 in South Carolina highlighting the importance of infrastructure.

Bidenomics focuses on three points: making public investments, educating workers to grow the middle class, and promoting competition, according to the White House.

Across the aisle, the GOP has seized upon voters’ worries over the economy to attack Bidenomics. The White House took a swipe at Republicans in Congress in its fact sheet announcing the president’s visit to Philadelphia, saying that if Republicans “had their way, their states would have lost out on billions of dollars in investments, jobs, and opportunity.”

“Yet nearly every Republican Member of the House voted again to overturn the Inflation Reduction Act’s clean energy tax credits in April 2023 — doubling down on their opposition at a time when manufacturers were investing in their state,” the White House wrote.

During his speech, Biden took aim at Sen. Tommy Tuberville for his opposition to the bipartisan infrastructure law, which the Alabama Republican voted against.

In a 2021 statement explaining his vote, Tuberville had said he would be “for a bill that invests every penny of every dollar in improvements to our roads, bridges, waterways, and rural broadband,” but added that “the final legislation is loaded with giveaways to big cities and pet projects that have little to do with real infrastructure.”

“Here’s what he says now: ‘Great to see Alabama receive critical funds to boost ongoing broadband efforts,'” Biden said. “Thought he thought it was a bad idea to invest in that, but now it’s coming to Alabama, and hot damn boys, good thing.”

The president also condemned Tuberville’s blockade of hundreds of military promotions as a move that jeopardizes “our national security.”

“I’m glad the senator’s coming around on the infrastructure law, but I’m not going to let up until he comes around in the critical military nominations as well,” Biden said.

Caroline Kenny, Peter Alexander and Elyse Perlmutter-Gumbiner contributed.

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