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Politics

Labor Day Bringing Biden to Pa., Harris and Pence to Wis.

September 7, 2020

WILMINGTON, Del.  — Democratic candidate Joe Biden is collecting a trio of Labor Day endorsements from organized labor while running mate Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence are set to campaign in Wisconsin as the 2020 presidential race, disrupted for months by the pandemic, enters its final phase.

Biden was heading Monday to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for an AFL-CIO virtual town hall with union President Richard Trumka. President Donald Trump planned an afternoon news conference from the White House.

Both campaigns see Wisconsin as a prize that could be pivotal. Harris will meet IBEW union workers and Black business owners in Milwaukee, while Pence will tour an energy facility in La Crosse. Trump's narrow win in Wisconsin in 2016 helped to send him to the White House.

According to details shared first with The Associated Press, the Biden campaign will announce three union endorsements: the Laborers' International Union of North America, the International Union of Elevator Constructors and the National Federation of Federal Employees, collectively representing hundreds of thousands of union workers nationwide who can be mobilized to support the campaign. The Biden campaign believes its labor support could help get out the vote in states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Labor Day typically marks the unofficial start to the fall campaign season as candidates accelerate their activity for the final sprint to Election Day. But Monday's events are playing out this year against the backdrop of a pandemic that has upended campaigning, forcing much of the candidates' traditional activity online.

Indeed, this marks Harris' first solo foray out on the campaign trail for in-person events since she was announced as Biden's running mate nearly a month ago. But Biden himself has stepped up his campaigning over the past week, traveling to Pittsburgh and Kenosha, Wisconsin, and holding two news conferences. Aides say to expect both Biden and Harris to increase their campaigning for the remaining weeks.

While the presidential campaign was roiled this past week by multiple reports recounting comments Trump allegedly made disparaging fallen soldiers, as well as the police shooting and violent protests in Kenosha, the focus on Labor Day is likely to return to the issue that polls consistently find at the top of voters' minds: the economy.

A strong economy that was Trump's biggest asset for reelection has now become a potential liability, brought down by the coronavirus. The Biden campaign has emphasized the economic damage wrought by what Biden argues was an inadequate response to the pandemic that resulted in more loss of life and jobs than necessary. It's a line both Biden and Harris are likely to push while speaking to union voters.

The U.S. economy has been steadily rebounding from its epic collapse in the spring as many businesses have reopened and rehired some laid-off employees. Yet the recovery is far from complete. Only about half the 22 million jobs that vanished in the pandemic have been recovered. 

Economic inequalities also appear to have widened, with lower-income and minority workers suffering disproportionately while affluent Americans have lost fewer jobs and even benefited from rising stock and home prices.

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