Biden: ‘Let’s finish the job’



Iron Workers Local 44 member Saria Gwin-Maye was introduced by Joe Biden during the address.

It’s an annual civic ritual, and sometimes it can be a bit of a snooze-fest. Not this time: President Joe Biden’s 2023 State of the Union address featured heckling and off-script engagement with members of Congress. Three Oregon union members were there in the balcony to witness it.

That’s because members of Congress are allowed to invite a guest. House Democrat Val Hoyle invited Eugene resident and Plumbers Local 290 business rep Jeff McGillivray. House Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer invited Jordan Zaitz, a member of the Portland Police Association. And Senator Jeff Merkley invited a prominent Oregon unionist—Oregon native Liz Shuler, president of the national AFL-CIO.

The speech is mandated by the U.S. Constitution, which says the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

Rep. Val Hoyle and UA 290’s Jeff McGillivray.

It seems unlikely the GOP-led House will consider his proposals, but Biden did recommend a bucket full of legislation, much of his unfinished agenda. For example, he asked Congress to pass the PRO Act, which would make it easier for workers to unionize and get a first contract. He also pushed a bill called the Junk Fee Prevention Act, which would cap service fees on tickets to concerts and sporting events, prohibit airlines from charging up to $50 round trip for families just to sit together, and ban surprise “resort fees” that hotels tack on to your bill.

McGillivray, the Local 290 rep, was on the balcony behind the president, about 15 rows away from the First Lady.

“I really liked the focus on the jobs, the record low unemployment. The administration really is on track helping workers. Everything was about helping workers, and it was really great to hear from our president.”

But McGillivray said he was bothered by the heckling.

“It was very disrespectful,” he told the Labor Press just after the speech. “Certain members don’t want to work across the aisle and have a bipartisan Congress.”

“I mean, every time there was something brought up that was a benefit for the working people, the Republicans sat down and didn’t clap,” he added. “That spoke volumes.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley invited AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, an Oregon native, to the State of the Union.

Zaitz, the Portland police officer, said she also appreciated Biden’s speech, including the part where he called for police reform while acknowledging that officers put their lives on the line every day. Biden had invited the parents of Tyre Nichols, who was beaten to death Jan. 7 by Memphis police officers.

 “I didn’t get an opportunity to speak with them, but I really wanted to reach out and let them know how grateful I was for their call for peace,” Zaitz said. “It was really hard to watch that video,” she said. “You know, good cops don’t like bad cops, and what they did was not okay.”

Portland Police Association member Jordan Zaitz was invited to the address by Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer.

Biden—who has pledged to be the most pro-union president ever—also invited Iron Workers Local 44 member Saria Gwin-Maye to the State of the Union, and introduced her to highlight upcoming bridge work funded by his infrastructure law.

“For 30 years,” Biden said, “she’s been a proud member of Ironworkers Local 44, known as the ‘cowboys of the sky’ who built the Cincinnati skyline.”

IBEW also got a mention when Biden talked up the climate job investments funded by a law dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act. “We’re building 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations installed across the country by tens of thousands of IBEW workers.”


  • “I’m so sick and tired of companies breaking the law by preventing workers from organizing. Pass the PRO Act, because workers have a right to form a union. And let’s guarantee all workers a living wage.”
  • “We’re building an economy where no one is left behind. Jobs are coming back, pride is coming back, because of the choices we made in the last two years. This is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America and make a real difference in your lives.”
  • “We’re building 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, installed across the country by tens of thousands of IBEW workers.”
  • “We pay for these investments in our future by finally making the wealthiest and the biggest corporationsbegin to pay their fair share. I’m a capitalist. But just pay your fair share. And I think a lot of you at home agree with me that our present tax system is simply unfair. The idea that in 2020, 55 of the biggest companies in America made $40 billion in profits and paid zero in federal income taxes? That’s simply not fair. But now, because of the law I signed, billion-dollar companies have to pay a minimum of 15%. Just 15%. That’s less than a nurse pays. … But there’s more to do. Let’s finish the job. Reward work, not just wealth. Pass my proposal for a billionaire minimum tax. Because no billionaire should pay a lower tax rate than a school teacher or a firefighter.”



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