DETROIT (Detroit Free Press) -- There is a war on organized labor that must be reversed, said Vice President Joe Biden during a speech today before the annual Labor Day parade in Detroit.
"Why in God's name does someone who makes hundreds of millions managing a hedge fund pay only 15% in taxes, while the average GM worker pays 25% in taxes," Biden asked the thousands of union members who converged on Detroit for the Labor Day festivities. "America has always done best when we act as one America. When we do, the nation succeeds."
It was a labor love fest in Detroit, with speeches from the leadership of most unions, as well as from elected officials and Democratic candidates for office, right in the middle of old Tiger Stadium at Michigan and Trumbull.
Although candidates have been working crowds and raising money for months, Labor Day is seen as the official kick-off of the November election campaign. There was as much talk of attacks on labor as there was pleas for the crowds to get out and vote.
"A million people who voted in 2008, didn't vote in 2010 and you know what we've got now," said Teamsters' president James Hoffa. "If we stay home we lose. We've got to have trunout. That's how we turn this country around."
For other speakers, it was all about the candidates.
"I've got a personal reason for why we need Gary Peters as my successor," said U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, referring to U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, who is running for Levin's Senate seat. "I want to sleep better at night."
Before Biden spoke, union members heard from Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer and U.S. Senate candidate Gary Peters, a Democratic congressman from Bloomfield Township.
"As your governor, I will value the Labor movement and all that it's done to build our middle classe," Schauer said. "And I will repeal right to work for less."
Peters pounced on his Republican opponent former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, a Byron Center Republican, who is getting millions in help from conservative millionaires Koch brothers.
"We've got millions and millions in spending against us," Peters said. " That is why this election is so important. Our democracy is on the line. I will stand up for middle class families."
But Biden was the main attraction. He talked about labor's role in building the middle class and Republican attacks on that foundation.
Unions did in fact build the middle class and the United States of America as we know it. If the middle class is doing fine, everyone is doing fine," Biden said. "A consensus used to exist between Republicans and Democrats, that if you contributed, you got tobenefit from that contribution. We've got to restore that bargain, if we don't America is in real trouble."
But America will be in worse trouble if Democrats take back control in Lansing, said Republican Party chairman Bobby Schostak.
"This Labor Day, Vice President Biden and Washington Democrats could learn from the progress we're making in the Comeback State. We're on track to make a faster comeback than the nation as a whole over a four-year span, thanks to Governor Snyder, Republican leadership," he said.
Snyder spent the morning in northern Michigan, participating in the annual Mackinac Bridge walk.
A million people who voted in 2008, didn't vote in 2010 and you know what we've got now. Raise your hadn if you're going to vote. If we stay home, we're going to lose the whole thing. Take your whole family. We've got to have turnout out, that's how we turn this country around.
Biden, who will speak from the field of old Tiger Stadium at Michigan an Trumbull, will kick off Labor Day festivities in Detroit
Biden spoke to the Labor Day crowds in 2012; President Barack Obama came to Detroit in 2011 and in 2008, before he was elected president.
The speeches and parade are designed to celebrate the achievements of American workers. It has become as much a political gathering as one to honor organized labor with Democratic candidates marchng alongside workers.