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Biden makes unions and steel the focus of his first 2024 visit to Pittsburgh

President Joe Biden speaks at the United Steel Workers Headquarters in downtown Pittsburgh on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (Credit: Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Kim Lyons, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
April 17, 2024

PITTSBURGH — President Joe Biden came to the Steel City for the second leg of a three-city trip across Pennsylvania on Wednesday and did two things that bode well for his chances of winning Allegheny County in the general election. First, he reiterated his pledge to oppose the $14.9 billion sale of U.S. Steel to Japan-based Nippon Steel. 

Second, he picked up an order at Sheetz. 

As he entered the lobby of the U.S. Steelworkers headquarters, he was greeted by a small gathering of union workers. One woman shouted, “Let’s keep U.S. Steel in America!”

Biden responded, “Guaranteed.” He then headed up to a larger gathering of union workers, where he was joined by Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and United Steelworkers president David McCall.

Biden thanked the union workers for their support, and for sending him to the White House.

“The bottom line, all kidding aside, I’m president of the United States because of you guys,” he said. “And as I said earlier, I’m proud to be the most pro-union president in American history.” Biden added he was a “union guy from belt buckle to shoe sole.”

The United Steelworkers recently endorsed Biden for re-election, and he received the endorsement of the United Autoworkers in January. He’s believed to be the first president ever to walk a picket line, when he joined striking UAW workers in Michigan last September. 

On Wednesday, Biden called for raising the 7.5% tariff on Chinese steel and aluminum imports by nearly triple, and said his administration will apply new pressure on Mexico to prevent China from shipping metals to the U.S. through its ports. In addition, the office of U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai launched an investigation Wednesday into the Chinese shipbuilding industry, which comes in response to a March petition from the U.S. Steelworkers and other unions.

“For too long, the Chinese government has poured state money into Chinese steel companies,” Biden said in Pittsburgh. “They’re not competing, they’re cheating.” 

Former President Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee for president, said in a statement Wednesday that American workers had no better friend than him. 

“America’s newfound prosperity is undeniable, unprecedented, and unmatched anywhere in the world. America achieved this stunning turnaround not by making minor changes to a handful of policies, but by adopting a whole new approach centered entirely on the wellbeing of the American worker,” Trump said. “Every decision we make — on taxes, trade, regulation, energy, immigration, education, and more — is focused on improving the lives of everyday Americans.”

Trump has also previously criticized the proposed sale of U.S. Steel. 

During his speech Wednesday, Biden thanked several Pennsylvania politicians, “folks who had my back and had to stay back in Washington. I couldn’t be here today without Representative Summer Lee, Chris Deluzio, and Senator Bobby Casey, who’s one of my closest friends. And John Fetterman. I want to stay on his side no matter what,” Biden added with a chuckle.

The Lee shoutout was particularly notable, as Lee’s primary opponent Bhavini Patel has accused Lee of not standing with the president often enough on issues, and anti-Lee campaign ads have often questioned whether she’s a good Democrat. 

Deluzio issued a statement Wednesday praising Biden’s moves on tariffs, calling them “a bold stand for American steel and steelworkers, and will help American steel hold its own against Communist China’s rampant violation of trade rules and laws.”

Lee also praised the tariffs announcement, calling it “an important step to level the playing field and protect our region’s good-paying, union jobs.”

 President Joe Biden, center, gets his picture taken with supporters shortly after giving a speech at the United Steelworkers Headquarters in downtown Pittsburgh on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Buttressing its support of steel and steelworkers, the Biden campaign launched a new Pennsylvania-focused ad campaign on Wednesday featuring JoJo Burgess, a steelworker, a veteran, and mayor of Washington, Pa. 

“You tell me an investment that the previous administration made that is even close to what Joe Biden has done,” Burgess said in the 90-second spot. “Donald Trump has shown through his history that workers mean nothing to him right now. We have the most pro-American worker president in office that we’ve ever had in this country’s history.”

Two groups of protesters filled the sidewalk across from the USW building, one chanting “ceasefire now,” and another chanting “Bidenomics has got to go.”

After a lengthy handshake line at USW headquarters, Biden’s motorcade headed west toward the airport, but made a brief stop at a Sheetz convenience store in Moon Township, where he picked up a large order of mostly turkey subs, according to the manager, and posed for photos with the workers who said they had about 10 minutes notice the president would pick up the order himself. 

 President Joe Biden picks up an order at Sheetz in Moon April 17, 2024. (Capital-Star photo by Kim Lyons)

The Sheetz stop may endear Biden to residents of Western Pennsylvania but could prove problematic in the eastern part of the state, where rival Wawa has a stronghold. Wawa announced Wednesday it was expanding into central Pennsylvania, planning 40 new stores by 2030.

After the Sheetz stop, Biden headed to see the construction site of Pittsburgh International Airport’s $1.5 billion new terminal, meeting with the construction workers. The project has received several rounds of grant funding from Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure program, and is scheduled to open in 2025.

 President Joe Biden meets with construction workers at Pittsburgh International Airport April 17, 2024 (Capital-Star photo by Kim Lyons)

Wednesday was Biden’s first trip to western Pennsylvania in 2024. He started the day in his childhood hometown of Scranton, where he spoke Tuesday about the economy and his tax plan. He wraps up his jaunt through Pennsylvania on Thursday with a visit to Philadelphia. 

While Biden campaigns in the most important battleground state, Trump is in New York, where he is standing trial on hush money charges. The trial recessed Tuesday after selecting seven jurors, but will resume Thursday morning. 

The latest Pennsylvania polling shows Biden and Trump running neck and neck. The Cook Political Report, a national ratings outlet, ranks Pennsylvania as one of the six “toss-up” states this cycle. Its 19 electoral votes are the most of any other state in that category.

The Keystone State’s primary election is April 23.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.