ST. PAUL -- On a virtual campaign event for Joe Biden, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and Minnesota union heads touted the Democratic presidential candidate's newly released environmental, economy and infrastructure plan.
Biden announced the $2 trillion, four-year plan on Tuesday, July 14, which he says will create jobs in the building, manufacturing, engineering and energy sectors as Americans continue to lose their jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic economic fallout. According to the New York Times, the plan promises environmentally conscious projects to improve transportation, wastewater and broadband infrastructure, as well as affordable housing and green energy. Biden also pledged to achieve net-zero carbon pollution in the electricity sector by 2035.
To get those projects done, Harris on Wednesday said Biden's plan will rely on the skills of manual workers.
"Joe has a longstanding, lifelong commitment to labor. He understands that if you want to grow an economy, you grow the strength of labor, the strength of our unions to engage in collective bargaining," Harris said. "The strongest voice for working men and women in America is organized labor, and so Joe’s plan emphasizes that point."
Carter said at Wednesday's roundtable that he hears a "rhetoric from Washington, D.C., that pits our goals for job creation against our goals for stopping climate change and against our goals for the environment."
But Don Mullin, executive director of the St. Paul Building & Construction Trades Council, said he thinks those goals "go hand-in-hand." He pointed to technological and environmental advances in energy efficient lighting, air conditioning and air quality control as examples.
"As that technology advances, construction advances. We advance," Mullin said. "And we look for those new technologies and we teach those new technologies in our apprenticeship programs. This is at the front."
Throughout the discussion, Carter, Harris and the labor leaders said that President Donald Trump hasn't delivered on his campaign promises to boost infrastructure in the country and in Minnesota. Republican National Committee spokesperson Preya Samsundar retorted in a written statement following the virtual event that, “While President Trump delivers critical infrastructure projects to Minnesota and leads the Great American Comeback, Joe Biden is hiding in a bunker unable to defend his 40-year record of policies that continue to hurt Minnesotans.”
Though Minnesota holds the nation's longest-running streak of electing Democrats for president, Carter noted that Trump's reelection campaign team is hoping to snap that streak in November. After a "too close for comfort" margin in 2016 -- Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton clinched Minnesota's electoral votes by less than 2 percentage points -- Carter said Republicans see Minnesota as a potential flip opportunity this year.
Samsundar pointed to Democrats' decades of leadership in Minnesota as proof that the state needs change.
"Minnesotans will be reminded that Biden's radical agenda will destroy our economy as they raise taxes, kill jobs and defund the police," she said. (A spokesperson for Biden later clarified that Biden does not support defunding the police.)
Carter said that 2016's close margins and Republicans' intent on flipping Minnesota red mean that Democrats can't take Minnesotans' votes for granted.
"We’re the state that knows how to knock on some doors, how to do some grassroots organizing, how to engage our neighbors and we’re going to need to do all of that," Carter said. "To say that we need a new president right now would be a vast understatement. We need a fundamentally new reawakening of our democracy."