In Chicago visit, Jill Biden calls union workers ‘backbone of this country’

Unions “built the middle class,” the first lady said outside McCormick Place. “And that’s why Joe is fighting for unions, so that workers can fight for what they need: better pay, safer working conditions, flexibility and health care.”

SHARE In Chicago visit, Jill Biden calls union workers ‘backbone of this country’
First lady Jill Biden speaks at McCormick Place on Wednesday. At left is Bob Reiter, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor.

First lady Jill Biden speaks outside McCormick Place Wednesday. At left is Bob Reiter, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Touting union workers as “the backbone of this country,” first lady Jill Biden came to Chicago on Wednesday to highlight the Biden administration’s support of organized labor.

“President Biden and I understand the middle class, because we are from the middle class,” Biden said to applause at a Chicago Federation of Labor event outside McCormick Place. “And unions, you built the middle class. And that’s why Joe is fighting for unions, so that workers can fight for what they need: better pay, safer working conditions, flexibility and health care.”

The first lady also hailed the president’s economic plan — “Bidenomics” — and credited the administration for lowering unemployment, rebuilding roads and expanding clean energy and manufacturing.

Jill Biden touted her credentials at the event as a “proud, card-carrying union member.” The first lady has continued teaching English and writing at Northern Virginia Community College, where she has been a professor since 2009.

The first lady’s brief remarks — just six minutes — came during a Labor Day kickoff event, with Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and other top Democrats in tow. The event overlooked Lake Michigan — a scenic outdoor space that will be used as one of several venues during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago next August.

Chicago’s status as a major union city helped it nab that convention. And in July, some big unions signed a “labor peace agreement,” promising not to strike during the convention.

The first lady has been ramping up travel and fundraising ahead of next year’s elections. In June, she went on a three-day fundraising swing to New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Before her Chicago stop Wednesday, the first lady landed in Indianapolis for a back-to-school event with U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy at a local high school, where the two highlighted mental health resources for schools.

Jill Biden was active in the 2020 and 2022 campaign cycles — and a Gallup poll released earlier this month found the first lady had a rare positive net favorability ranking — one of only two U.S. public figures in the poll to do so.

Net favorability is the difference between how many people hold a favorable opinion and how many hold an unfavorable one. In Jill Biden’s case, it was a net positive of 11 percentage points. President Joe Biden had a net negative ranking of 16 percentage points.

The first lady will be in Madison, Wisconsin, on Thursday with Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., for an event highlighting the Biden Cancer Moonshot, a project highlighting the need for cancer screenings. She’ll also deliver remarks at a gathering with the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers and attend a fundraiser with Baldwin.

The Latest
The Bears’ upcoming season looks like it’s going to be fun. That’s up to Eberflus, though — on the field and at the microphone.
The Cubs were looking for more offensive production at the catching position.
Reginald Meadows, a 31-year-old father of two, was killed and more than 20 others were wounded in a shooting in a strip mall parking lot near Willowbrook.
“We read so many scripts and just couldn’t find an existing show we wanted to do,” Metcalf says of reuniting with Mantello. Steppenwolf’s co-artistic directors Glenn Davis and Audrey Francis suggested they meet with Hunter about a commission.