Vice-President of the United States Joe Biden addresses the Labor Day rally at the corner of Washington and Michigan in Detroit, Mich. Monday, September 3, 2012. / REGINA H. BOONE/Detroit Free Press
(DETROIT FREE PRESS) -- Protecting collective bargaining rights was the primary message of the Labor Day festivities in Detroit Monday, both in the annual parade which attracted tens of thousands of union members and during a speech by Vice President Joe Biden.
"They don't believe in your very right to bargain," Biden told the crowd of about 3,500 people standing next to the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in downtown Detroit.
"These guys don't get it. Right to work means the right to work for less. As long as we're here, it will not happen."
Twenty-three states have right to work laws, which prohibit unions from forcing employees to join or pay dues. Right to work laws have been proposed in Michigan over the years, but have never made it out of committee.
In an effort to head off proposed right to work laws, unions in the state collected enough signatures to get a proposal on the November ballot that would collective bargaining rights for employees
That proposal came up time and again the speeches leading up to Biden's 15-minute speech.
"This November Michigan families are standing together to protect collective bargaining," said Mary Beauchamp-Sayraf, a nurse at the University of Michigan.
And Biden's speech was a tribute to the workers, who stayed after the parade to hear him speak.
"Before the sacrifices you made, the UAW made, but for all those sacrifices, all the GM plants would have been closed," Biden said, noting the addition of shifts at Chrysler and GM plants in metro Detroit. "You're the reason the auto plants are back. You sacrificed to keep your companies open."
He also took plenty of time to slap around the Republican presidential ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
Romney "called the president of the United States out of touch," Biden said. "Well, how many of you all have a Swiss bank account. How much do you have invested in the Cayman Islands. This guy won't even let you see his tax returns."
A couple dozen Republicans joined with the thousands of Labor Day parade marchers in Detroit to make sure their voice was heard too.
"With Biden in town, our clear message is that their policies have failed," said Michigan Republican Party chairman Bobby Schostak. "We've got 60 days left and the momentum is with us."
While Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney got a bump in the polls with his selection of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, the GOP ticket didn't get an appreciable bounce from the Republican National Convention last week.
A Gallup poll released Monday morning showed that 36% of the 1,045 people surveyed said they'd be more likely to vote for Romney while 33% said the would be less likely to vote for him after the convention.