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In Ohio, Biden addressed a friendly crowd of labor leaders and union workers

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

President Biden is trying to make a case that he's helped boost the middle class. Biden traveled to the bellwether state of Ohio with this message, even as polls suggest Americans are souring on how he's handled the economy. NPR's Barbara Sprunt reports.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: There's no other place I want to be than right here with the workers in this room and the workers that build America. I see you. I hear you. And I'll always have your back, I promise.

BARBARA SPRUNT, BYLINE: This was a friendly crowd for President Biden - labor leaders and union workers who cheered his remarks about unions in America.

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BIDEN: Because when unions do well, everybody does well.

SPRUNT: He reminded them he looked after them in his big COVID relief bill last year. That bill included supports for union pension plans that were in trouble.

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BIDEN: Two hundred multi-employer pension plans for 2 to 3 million workers and retirees were going insolvent. What that means to those 2 or 3 million workers - they faced painful cuts to the benefits they counted on and for the dignified security of retirement.

SPRUNT: One of those people is James Chester. He drove 2 1/2 hours to hear the president yesterday, and he's hoping to get back some of the money he lost from a struggling pension plan after working 37 years in sheet metal construction.

JAMES CHESTER: It was a light at the end of the tunnel, and he finally passed this law, and it made the old man smile that we may get this money back now.

SPRUNT: In his speech, Biden talked about the progress he's made - more jobs and cuts to unemployment. And he drew a contrast with Republicans, who he said are mostly looking to help the rich.

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BIDEN: Not one single solitary Republican voted for the Butch Lewis Act, this legislation.

SPRUNT: Chester says he thinks Biden is doing what he can, but he's worried high prices at the pump and grocery stores could hurt Democrats in the midterm elections.

CHESTER: What Biden did today was a step in the right direction to energize the labor force to come out and vote because if we don't vote, we're going to lose. So if the Democrats come out and get excited about what's going on, we can hold the Senate, and we can hold the Congress.

SPRUNT: Recent national polls show that could be an uphill climb. Biden is getting low marks on his handling of the economy, something Chester says Biden and his Democrats will have to work hard to overcome to get out the vote come November.

Barbara Sprunt, NPR News, Cleveland, Ohio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Barbara Sprunt
Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.