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Published: Tuesday, 9/4/2012

Biden commends auto workers for their sacrifice

BY TANYA IRWIN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Vice President Joe Biden wades into a sea of supporters in Detroit after addressing a crowd outside the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel Monday during a campaign stop. Vice President Joe Biden wades into a sea of supporters in Detroit after addressing a crowd outside the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel Monday during a campaign stop.
THE DETROIT NEWS/ROBIN BUCKSON Enlarge

DETROIT -- Protecting workers' rights and bringing jobs back to America were the themes of Vice President Joe Biden's speech in the Motor City on Monday.

Mr. Biden spoke to a crowd of about 3,500 people at the end of the annual AFL-CIO of Michigan Labor Day parade, which attracted tens of thousands of union members.

"You sacrificed to keep your companies open," Mr. Biden said from a lectern outside the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel, at Michigan Avenue and Washington Boulevard, referring to the wage freezes and other concessions that union members have made that have helped to restore health to their companies.

"You took a hit. And because of you, Chrysler's Jefferson North plant here in Detroit just added another 1,100 jobs. And last November, 900 jobs have already been added to the Sterling Heights Assembly plant. I was just at Lordstown on Friday, and General Motors has added two shifts and is investing $200 million in that plant.

"Because of you and your productivity, the combined auto companies have committed to invest another $23 billion in expansion in America," Mr. Biden said. "Not in Mexico, not in China, not in Vietnam, but in Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, and the United States of America."

The crowd, many sporting T-shirts proclaiming their allegiance to various unions, booed when Republican Mitt Romney and his running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, were mentioned.

"We don't need your boos, we need your votes," Mr. Biden told them. The crowd then broke into chants of "four more years."

Steve Golick of Ann Arbor, an iron worker for 46 years who wore an Ironworkers Local 25 T-shirt, said it would be "catastrophic" if the Democrats are not re-elected.

"He hit all the right points," Mr. Golick said of the vice president's 13-minute speech. "Obama and Biden have always supported us. Now it's a year that we support them, both at a state and a national level. Failure is not an option."

Maureen Brosman of Livonia said her dad is a "union guy," and her family had been fans of Mr. Biden "forever."

"[Mr. Biden] just gets it," Ms. Brosman said. "He's a working-class guy that gets it."

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), gave the welcoming remarks. Mr. Biden was introduced by Mary Beauchamp-Sayraf, a nurse who works at the University of Michigan Hospital, and Eric Weber, a Lansing, Mich., fire department worker.

Mr. Biden, who wore a black, short-sleeved sport shirt, prepared to address the crowd to the chorus of Bruce Springsteen's "We Take Care of Our Own."

He was accompanied by his son, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, and grandson Hunter Biden, who is 6.

Mr. Biden thanked Ms. Stabenow, along with U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, his brother U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, and U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, all Democrats from Michigan who were in attendance.

Burnice Foster of Detroit, who used to work at the General Motor's Inland Division plant in Euclid, Ohio, before taking a buyout and moving back to Detroit, came to the speech with a clipboard to register to vote other attendees.

"I thought his speech was great," Ms. Foster said.

"I used to work for GM and now I have two daughters who work for Chrysler, so it means a lot to me to have a president who supports auto workers."

The latest Michigan visit, Mr. Biden's third in just five weeks, did not go off without a hitch.

A rental truck leased by the Secret Service was stolen Sunday from downtown Detroit in front of the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel.

It was recovered Monday by Detroit police 3 1/2 miles away in the parking lot of an apartment complex near Henry Ford Hospital on West Grand Boulevard.

Some of the contents had been recovered earlier in the day in an abandoned house on the city's northwest side and the rest appeared to be inside the truck, agency spokesman Ed Donovan said.

Mr. Donovan would not specify what the van contained, but Detroit TV reports said it was full of metal detectors to screen the crowds that congregated in a gated area in front of the vice president's lectern.

Earlier Monday, some Republicans joined with the thousands of Labor Day parade marchers in Detroit to make sure their voice was heard too.

Romney Campaign spokesman Amanda Henneberg took issue with Mr. Biden's claim that Americans are better off now than they were four years ago before the Democrats were elected.

"The truth is that the middle class has been crushed in the Obama economy," Ms. Henneberg said.

"Unemployment remains high, incomes have fallen, and gas prices have doubled. Americans aren't better off than they were four years ago, and they deserve a president who recognizes that. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have a plan for a stronger middle class that will jump-start our economy and get us back on the right track."

Contact Tanya Irwin at: tirwin@theblade.com, 419-724-6066.



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