Union Buster: Joe Biden’s First 2020 Fundraiser Co-Hosted by Top Anti-Worker Lawyer

Former Vice President Joe Biden looks on at left as then-Pa. Gov. Ed Rendell speaks during a news conference at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)
Carolyn Kaster/AP

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s first presidential campaign fundraiser on Thursday will be co-hosted by a top union busting attorney, undercutting the leading Democrat candidate’s message that he is somehow in favor of American workers while incumbent GOP President Donald Trump is not.

Pennsylvania news outlet WHHY reported April 17 that several prominent Democrats in the state, including former Gov. Ed Rendell and former Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter, as well as Comcast Senior Executive Vice President David Cohen, are putting together a fundraiser for Biden this week.

“We keep hearing that Vice President Joe Biden is seriously considering a run for President,” Cohen wrote in an email to potential contributors for the Biden kickoff fundraiser invitation. “Speaking personally, I am very hopeful that he will move forward in announcing his candidacy soon.”

Buried further down in the invitation is the revelation of who’s on the “host committee” for the fundraiser. With “others to follow,” the Biden fundraiser host committee includes, along with Nutter and Rendell, “former U.S. Rep. and Philadelphia Democratic City Committee Chairman Bob Brady, former state Sen. Connie Williams, developer Ron Rubin, Independence Blue Cross CEO Dan Hilferty, and attorneys Steve Cozen, Charisse Lillie, and Ken Jarin.”

The name Steve Cozen, who is an attorney, is a particularly interesting choice for the former vice president to have on his first presidential campaign fundraiser host committee.

Cozen’s firm, Cozen O’Connor, is a prominent law firm specializing in union-busting. According to a report from Payday Report, a labor blog, the firm that Biden has chosen to have a senior partner attend his presidential campaign’s opening fundraiser is a major union-busting law firm helping corporations crush efforts by workers to unionize.

From Payday Report:

According to Cozen O’Connor website, the firm specializes in union busting advertising that it helps employers to “avoid unionization through positive employee relations and regain nonunion status when employees indicate they no longer wish to be union-represented”.
The firms also boasts on its website that it helps employers to lock out their workers.

The firm’s website does note that it also represents unions, but the fact that Biden would appear with a union-busting attorney is particularly significant given that his official public campaign launch–slated for Monday of next week after a series of  early missteps and mishaps with the rollout–is supposed to happen with union workers in the background.

More from Payday Report’s Mike Elk:

The inclusion of Cozen on Biden’s first fundraiser raises lingering questions about Biden’s continued commitment to organized labor and why so many labor leaders are eager to hop on board with Biden.
On Monday, Biden is slated to announce his bid for election as President at the Teamsters Local 249 in order to emphasize Biden’s understanding of white working-class Americans in Trump Country like Western PA.
Congressman Conor Lamb, who Biden campaign extensively during his upset 2018 special election victory in a district that went for Trump by 14 points, is expected to endorse Biden at the rally; emphasizing Biden’s understanding of white working-class voters and win elections in places like Western Pennsylvania.

Biden is supposed to be releasing a video on Thursday announcing his presidential campaign, and then he will conduct a series of fundraisers like this Pennsylvania one co-hosted by the Comcast executive and the union buster. Then on Monday he will hold his first public event, where he will appear alongside United Steelworkers president Leo Gerard.

Politico reported late Wednesday evening that Gerard said  union workers will appear in their official garb at Biden’s public launch next week, a move designed to try to paint Biden as the working class Democrat candidate who can beat Trump where it counts:

After announcing his 2020 bid in a video to be released Thursday, Biden is expected to formally kick off his campaign with a Monday rally at a Pittsburgh union hall. United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard said Biden can count on steelworkers to turn out on Monday, including many “wearing their USW gear.” The same holds true for the International Association of Fire Fighters, according to an IAFF spokesman.

For Biden, labor’s heavy presence would serve to underscore an argument central to his case for the Democratic nomination: that he continues to be serve as the party’s best-known emissary to working-class whites, the precise demographic that Donald Trump picked off in key industrial states like Pennsylvania in 2016.

Trump infamously flipped a series of rust belt states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, becoming the first Republican to win them since 1988. He also won big in other working class areas like Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, and Iowa, all states former President Barack Obama–Biden’s old running mate–won his first time around in 2008.

Obama won them all again, except North Carolina and Indian, in his re-election in 2012, and when Trump defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in these states, the political establishment was shocked. Trump crafted a new populist coalition of traditional Republicans and conservatives mixed with working class voters, many of whom are or were in unions and many of whom had traditionally voted Democrat or did not vote at all.

Democrats have been trying to figure out how to break Trump’s young coalition, viewing it as fleeting and a one-time deal that will not hold–and many consider Biden as the answer to the Democrats’ woes in the rust belt. But, with Biden choosing to fundraise with union busters and corporate CEOs first before he appears with the union workers days later, he could further alienate the very American workers he intends to bring back to the Democrat Party.

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