VP Biden talks jobs at AFL-CIO picnic

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - CINCINNATI (AP) - Vice President Joe Biden, saying organized labor is under the most direct assault in generations, urged a major Ohio union gathering Monday to lead the way in fighting back.

"It's time to turn the tide in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida ... and it seems to me that's exactly what you're doing here in Ohio," Biden said, referring to a campaign led by Ohio unions that will try to overturn in a November statewide vote a Republican-pushed new law restricting collective bargaining for public employees.

Biden said similar measures in other states are part of a "fight for the heart and soul of the labor movement."

"This is the fight of your life," Biden told the annual AFL-CIO picnic at the Coney Island park along the Ohio River.

He said organized labor helped build the middle class, and is under attack because it stands as a counterweight to those "with a different value set" who want to concentrate power.

"It's time that we stand up!" said Biden, in a loud voice. "This is about respect. This is about being treated as equals ... It's about the dignity of average, hardworking Americans ... above all, it's about basic fairness."

The Ohio GOP chairman, Kevin DeWine, said Biden's visit shows that the Barack Obama administration's economic policies are causing its labor support to wane as unemployment remains high.

"What Ohioans have come to understand is that in order for us to create more jobs, Joe Biden and (Democratic Sen.) Sherrod Brown need to lose theirs," DeWine said in a statement.

Cincinnati firefighter Doug Stern said he thought Biden's visit showed the significance of the effort to overturn the new public bargaining law in a state that is usually pivotal in national elections.

"The old saying is 'as Ohio goes, so goes the country,'" said Stern, 37. "We're a bellwether."

Organizers expected to draw up to 15,000 people Monday to the 25th annual picnic, always a key stop for Democratic candidates. A final crowd estimate wasn't immediately available on a chilly day when the winds off the river helped waft the smoke and smells from grills loaded with burgers, bratwurst and hot dogs.

Liz Shuler, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, said she borrowed Biden's sport jacket for warmth. He wore a polo shirt.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)