July 21, 2024

Remarks by Vice President Harris at the Constitutional Convention of UNITE HERE

Remarks by Vice President Harris at the Constitutional Convention of UNITE HERE

New York Hilton Midtown
New York, New York

11:50 A.M. EDT

     THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everyone.  Good morning, UNITE HERE.  (Applause.)  Good morning.

     Oh, it’s good to be in the house of labor.  Good morning.  (Applause.)

     AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you, Kamala!

     THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And you know I love you.

Can we please hear it for Elena?  (Applause.)  What an extraordinary leader. 

     I — you know, I — being — you and I being together with all of the other members in Las Vegas in that early day, when we didn’t know how it was all going to turn out, and you showed such strength, as you do every day.  But, you know, these are mom- — moments of crisis, moments where we don’t know where things are going to end up really do reveal the strong among us, the leaders among us.  And Elena is one of them.  And I thank you so very much.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

So, it’s good to be with everyone.  Have a seat.  Please have a seat.

And to UNITE HERE President D. Taylor — the former President D. Taylor, I thank you.  I know you’re here somewhere.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank you for your friendship and decades of leadership in the labor movement.  And, of course, we all know, D.  I mean, your strength and determination has improved the lives of countless workers around our nation.  So, thank you, D. 

And to President Gwen Mills — (applause) — congratulations on your historic election.  And I know, we all know, that she is going to continue this union’s long legacy of impact. 

And finally, to the members of UNITE HERE, I thank you for everything you do for our nation and for your unwavering support of President Biden and me. 

You know, in 2020, in states like Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona, it was you — it was the members of this union who energized, who organized, and mobilized.  It is because of your work and your support that Joe Biden is President of the United States and I am the first woman elected Vice President of the United States.  (Applause.)  I’m really clear about how we got here.

And so, you know, many of you know a bit about my background.  You know that my parents met while they were active in the Civil Rights Movement.  And so, when I was young, they would take me to marches in a stroller.  And from a very young age, then, I learned that when people stand together, when we use our collective voice, when we stand in solidarity, we can drive extraordinary change, because it is we who stand together as the collective who have the power and the ability to see what can be, unburdened by what has been.

And my entire career, like everyone here, I have been guided by a fundamental belief, then, in the power of the collective — a belief that has also, of course, guided the work of UNITE HERE from its earliest days. 

So, for the press in the room, I’ll give you a little history lesson.  More than a hundred years ago, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, tens of thousands of textile workers — many of them women — came together to demand fair pay and safer working conditions. 

     For months, in the cold New England winter, they stood together — workers of all backgrounds, including immigrants from Italy and Poland and Germany and dozens of other countries; many who did not speak English, but spoke the language of solidarity as they stood shoulder to shoulder.  And all — (applause) — of course, all that is true today. 

And that legacy is strong.  And together, then, a hundred years ago, they fought.  And together, they won.

And in the decades since, the workers of UNITE HERE have taken on some of the most powerful corporations in our nation, from Big Pharma to the hedge funds, which took over casinos and put profits over workers.  And you have won — you’ve won fair pay, better benefits, safer working conditions, and protection against discrimination and harassment. 

Through the power of the collective, you have transformed millions of jobs into middle-class jobs — jobs that come with the dignity that all people deserve.  (Applause.)

And I know of your work.  For many years, I have had the honor to work closely with the leaders of this union.  When I was Attorney General of California, I worked with j- — with you, with many of the leaders here to crack down on wage theft.  As a United States senator, we fought together for paid family leave and medical leave for more workers.  (Applause.) 

And as Elena mentioned, this past October, with pride, I stood in Las Vegas with the workers of Culinary 226 for your Day of Action — (applause) — (laughs) — ohh — for your Day of Action — (applause) —

     AUDIENCE MEMBER:  226!

     THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — and again — 226! — (laughs) —

AUDIENCE:  226!  226!  226!

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And again, in Las Vegas, a few months later, it was my honor to join Culinary —

AUDIENCE:  226!

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — once again — (laughs) — to celebrate your contract win.  And, my goodness, what a historic contract win: your historic pay raise of 32 percent.  Extraordinary.  Extraordinary.  (Applause.)  

And, of course, this was a victory for all workers — for all workers — because, as we in this room know, when union wages go up, everyone’s wages go up.  (Applause.)  When union workplaces are more safe, all workplaces are more safe.  When unions are strong, America is strong.  (Applause.)

And President Joe Biden and I are proud to stand by your side.  (Applause.) 

So, together — together, we have fought for affordable healthcare, knowing healthcare should be a right and not just a privilege of those who can afford it.  (Applause.)

We, together — together, we took on Big Pharma and capped the cost of insulin at $35 a month for our seniors.  (Applause.)  And now, because of our work together, three of the largest drug companies in the country are capping the cost of asthma inhalers from hundreds of dollars each to just $35 each.  (Applause.)

And we know how that affects so many of our babies, historically, and how expensive those inhalers have been.

And we are finally making it so that medical debt can no longer count against your credit score — (applause) — which means medical debt can no longer get in the way of someone’s ability to get a car loan, to get a home loan, to get a lease for an apartment.  (Applause.) 

Because I don’t need to tell anyone here, medical debt — well, most people come by medical debt because of a medical emergency.  They didn’t ask for it.  They didn’t save for it.  And it happens, and then they’re out tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars.  And the way it has been working is it can count against somebody’s credit score. 

Well, your credit score is supposed to be a measure of whether you are financially responsible.  It doesn’t make any sense that you would cause somebody to take a hit to their credit score for a medical emergency, and that’s why we’re getting rid of that.  (Applause.)    

In addition to medical debt, we are also addressing the issue of student loan debt.  (Applause.)  So far, we have forgiven student loan debt for nearly 5 million Americans and twice as much for our public servants, including our teachers, our nurses, and firefighters.  (Applause.)

So, UNITE HERE, I stand here as we are 137 days away from the most important election of our lifetime.  And there is a very clear contrast between who we have looked out for and who the last administration looked out for. 

Whereas the last administration gave tax cuts to billionaires —

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — we gave tax cuts to families with children through the Child Tax Credit — (applause) — and cut the rate of child poverty in half when we did it.  (Applause.)  

We are also proud to lead the most pro-union administration in the history of America.  (Applause.)  We expanded the power of OSHA to make workplaces safer.  (Applause.)

As head of the White House Labor Task Force, I have led our work to eliminate barriers to organizing in both public and private sectors.  (Applause.)

And we did the long overdue work to protect the pension plans of now more than 1 million union workers — (applause) — including thousands of UNITE HERE members and retirees.  

On the issue of immigration, we believe in keeping families together, not tearing them apart.  (Applause.)  So, now, undocumented spouses of American citizens who have been in the country for 10 or more years can stay in the country while they apply for a green card — (applause) — and so can their children.  (Applause.)

We also made it easier for thousands of DREAMers who have graduated college to secure work permits, because our entire nation benefits from their extraordinary skill, talent, and ambition.  (Applause.)

So, the bottom line is that in all we do, President Biden and I are guided by the belief that we work for you and we will fight with you, alongside you, and for you.  

On the other hand, Donald Trump has made it clear time and time again —

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — he only cares about himself.  He openly talks about his intention to weaponize the Department of Justice against his enemies.  He openly talks about his admiration for dictators.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Has vowed on day one that he will be a dictator on day one. 

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

     THE VICE PRESIDENT:  He said he is — and I’m going to quote — “proudly responsible” for overturning Roe v. Wade and taking —

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — taking freedom of choice from millions of women in our country.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And get this.  Recently, in Las Vegas — you might have seen this.  Recently, in Las Vegas — well, it was a typical day in Vegas; it was 104 degrees.  (Laughter.)  You know what I’m saying.  But on a day that was 104 degrees and his supporters were outside, Donald Trump told the crowd — and I’m going to quote — “I don’t care about you.  I just want your vote.” 

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Maya Angelou told us how we should think about these kinds of moments.  Remember what Maya Angelou said?  She said, “When someone tells you who they are, believe them the first time.”  Believe them the first time.  (Applause.)

So, we see what’s happening.  We see what’s happening.

Donald Trump and his allies, they’re working from a playbook: to attack freedoms, to spread hate, to divide our country, and to make people feel alone, to make people feel small. 

But in the face of these attacks, we here know the power of the collective.  And, UNITE HERE, I believe when you know what you stand for, you know what to fight for.  (Applause.) 

We stand for freedom and opportunity.  We fight for paid family leave and affordable childcare.  We fight to lower rents, and we fight to help more Americans buy a home.  (Applause.)  We fight to secure a pathway for citizenship, including for our DREAMers.  And we fight for the dignity of all people.  (Applause.)  Because we know what we stand for, and so we know what to fight for.   

And in this moment, our nation needs everyone here.  We need you.  We really do.  We need you to continue to do what you know how to do so well.  You’re the best at it. 

     We need you to continue to organize.  We need you to continue to mobilize.  We need you to continue knocking on that door and practicing how to do it.  (Laughs.)  (Applause.)  And we need you to make your voices heard.

So, UNITE HERE, are you ready to make your voices heard?

     AUDIENCE:  Yes! 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Are you ready to fight for freedom? 

     AUDIENCE:  Yes! 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Are you ready to fight for opportunity?

     AUDIENCE:  Yes!   

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Are you ready to fight for the promise of America?

     AUDIENCE:  Yes!  

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And when we fight —

AUDIENCE:  We win!

     THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — we win!

God bless you.  God bless America.  Thank you all.  (Applause.)

END             12:06 P.M. EDT

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Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2024/06/21/remarks-by-vice-president-harris-at-the-constitutional-convention-of-unite-here/