Biden, VP hopeful Kaine speak before Labor Day parade

Written By Josh Croup, Editor-in-Chief

Vice President Joe Biden walked in last year’s Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh, stopping to shake hands and take selfies with parade-goers, including members of the Point Park women’s soccer team. The Vice President returned to Pittsburgh Monday for Pittsburgh’s Labor Day celebration, but this time, he accompanied a man he hopes will replace him in the White House.

Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, Hillary Clinton’s running mate and potential future Vice President of the United States, joined Biden on a stage at the intersection of Liberty Avenue and 11th street Monday prior to Downtown Pittsburgh’s Labor Day Parade. The two spoke about Clinton’s plans for the economy and praised the contributions of workers and unions in front of a crowd of a few hundred people.

President of Pennsylvania’s American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) Rick Bloomingdale made the first remarks of the morning and wasted no time taking a jab at Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, comparing him to “your drunk uncle at your picnic today.”

United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo Gerard introduced Kaine and praised the senator’s support of workers over the years. Gerard referred to the 2016 election as the “most important election in the history of the country.”

Pittsburgh’s Labor Day parade is considered one of the country’s largest and is typically a celebration of local unions. While Kaine and Biden each spoke to the importance of unions in the economy, neither missed the chance to take a swing at Trump.

Kaine compared the election to a job interview and criticized Trump for not answering questions from the American people.

“You wouldn’t hire somebody for a summer job who wouldn’t answer your questions in a job interview, and he wants you to hire him to be president of the United States,” Kaine said. “He thinks we’re chumps. Donald Trump thinks he can blow this by us, that we’re gullible. But I’ll tell you, Pennsylvanians aren’t gullible… he’s going to learn something very different on November eighth.”

A number of local and state political figures were in attendance for the speeches, all of which are democrats.

Gov. Tom Wolf, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald, President of the Allegheny County Labor Council Jack Shea, Pennsylvania Congressmen Mike Doyle and Tim Murphy, Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa and Pennsylvania House of Representatives Minority Leader Frank Dermody and Pennsylvania’s democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Katie McGinty were all in the crowd for Monday’s speeches.

Biden was the main speaker and took the podium following Kaine, addressing the crowd for about half an hour under a cloudless sky.

Biden strutted to the podium, took off his navy sports coat and tossed it on the ground below as he removed his sunglasses, Kaine by his side.

“I’ll tell you what,” Biden said. “My name is Joe Biden, and I work for Hillary Clinton and whatever the hell this guy’s name is.”

Biden said Clinton couldn’t have picked a better running mate in Kaine, who he said is highly qualified for the job he has served for nearly the past eight years.

“Hillary is really going to need him,” Biden said. “Not because she’s not the smartest person to seek that office, she is. But because the plate is so full.”

The 73-year-old Scranton, Pa. native told the crowd he was offered a scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh to play football, but ultimately decided on the University of Delaware in the state where he served as U.S. Senator from 1973-2009. He called Pittsburgh “almost home.”

Biden celebrated union workers in the crowd and criticized the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and some democrats for “tip-toeing around” unions with words like “organized labor.” He said Kaine understands unions.

“[Unions] have literally, not figuratively, built this country,” Biden said. “The sacrifices unions have made, all the dues you’ve paid, all the picket lines you’ve marched in, all of that has benefited not only you, it’s benefited every American worker.”

Point Park adjunct faculty members successfully negotiated their first union contract last year and the university’s full-time faculty members are currently in the collective bargaining process for their first union contract.

The parade kicked off shortly after 10 a.m. from the staging area, but Biden did not walk in the parade like he did in 2015. Wolf, Peduto, Fitzgerald and McGinty, among others, each joined in on the parade festivities that went through Point Park’s campus on Boulevard of the Allies.

Junior counseling psychology major Hannah Hepler was sitting at the corner of Wood Street and Boulevard of the Allies in front of Lawrence Hall when she found out Biden would not make his return to campus Monday. While disappointed, Hepler said she still enjoyed the parade.

“I was quite disappointed that I didn’t get to see him this year,” Hepler said. “I understand he has other things to do, so it’s totally cool. It gives us a real world experience.”

Local unions and marching bands flooded the streets Monday morning for the parade. The sound of bagpipes drew freshman dance major Cecilia Benitez out of her dorm to watch the parade with her roommates.

“It was pretty exciting because I’ve never really been to a parade like this before,” the Miami native said.  “We have elf parades, but not like political parades.”