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Kamala Harris rallies with labor activists in Boston

Underscores administration’s commitment to workers

Anna Lamb
Kamala Harris rallies with labor activists in Boston
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during the Greater Boston Labor Council’s annual Labor Day Breakfast in Boston, Massachusetts, on September 5, 2022. PHOTO: ANGELA ROWLINGS

Vice President Kamala Harris joined union leaders and elected officials at the Greater Boston Labor Council’s annual Labor Day breakfast to celebrate workers and underscore the administration’s commitment to organized labor.

“President Joe Biden and I are determined to lead the most pro-union administration in America’s history,” the VP told a cheering crowd in the Park Plaza banquet hall Monday morning. “When union workers go to work, they go to work for the entire nation.”

The vice president, who chairs the Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment alongside former Boston Mayor and now Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, told the crowd that the federal government wants to support workers by reducing child poverty, cutting taxes for working people and lowering the cost of health care.

“When unions are strong, America is strong,” Harris said.

Harris gave a nearly 20-minute speech that not only highlighted the accomplishments of the administration, but also made a point to admonish “extremist” lawmakers on the right, who she said have harmed workers with policies prioritizing corporate profit and disenfranchising the working class.

“In Congress and in statehouses across our nation, extremist so-called leaders are fighting to turn back the clock … to a time before workers had the freedom to organize,” she said. “To a time before women had the freedom to make decisions about their own bodies. To a time before all Americans had the freedom to vote. Today in America, our communities are being terrorized by gun violence. And yet these extremist so-called leaders are fighting to keep assault weapons on the shelves.”

She added, “Today in America, so many working families are struggling to get by. But instead of standing with working people to lower the price of health care, education and childcare, these extremist so-called leaders prioritize breaks for big corporations and the wealthiest one percent.”

Following her speech, Harris met with a smaller group of Massachusetts lawmakers and union leaders for a roundtable discussion. The panel included progressive Sen. Ed Markey, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, and Attorney General and gubernatorial frontrunner Maura Healey. Earlier in the morning, Healey delivered a brief campaign speech to a standing ovation, promising to “fight hard for working people.”

The union workers, led by Brian Doherty, secretary-treasurer of the Boston Building Trades, included workers from the Sprinkler Fitters Local 550, a representative from the Harvard Graduate Students Union and members from newly formed coffee shop unions.

Kylah Clay, a member of the first unionized Starbucks store in Massachusetts, shared her testimony with the vice president and encouraged other workers to follow in Starbucks employees’ footsteps. The popular coffee chain has made headlines over the last year for negatively reacting to stores in upstate New York and now in New England who have made attempts at collective bargaining.

“Our fight proves that you don’t need millions of dollars or a high-class legal team to win this fight. You just need solidarity among the working class,” Clay said.

This is Harris’ second time in Boston in recent months — in August, she met with Massachusetts lawmakers in Dorchester to support abortion rights. President Biden is set to visit Boston next week to promote his infrastructure bill.

Harris did her part to promote the White House agenda during her brief visit to Boston.

“To rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, we need you,” she told the labor activists gathered at the Park Plaza Hotel. “We need plumbers and pipefitters in Malden and Chelsea to replace the lead pipes in schools and homes.  And to help us replace every lead pipe within 10 years.”

She continued, “We need electrical workers in Northampton and Essex to lay the fiber optic lines that bring high-speed internet to every household in America. And we need the hard-working members of Boston’s building trades to build new bus lanes and sidewalks in Roxbury. And to make upgrades to Logan.”

Just as Harris used the trip for political gain, the Republican National Committee took the opportunity to slam the Biden administration, saying through spokesperson Rachel Lee that “With less than 65 days to the midterms, Biden, Harris and Democrats have no message and a failed track record. It’s no wonder why Kamala Harris headed to deep-blue Boston instead of a battleground state.”

labor movement, politics, Vice President Harris