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President Joe Biden spoke about his economic agenda "Bidenomics" at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyards on July 20. Credit: Mollie Benn

President Joe Biden visited Philadelphia on July 20 to promote his economic agenda, his vision for a clean energy future, and the importance of unions. 

In his remarks at the Navy Yard, Biden connected rebuilding the middle class with working toward a renewable energy future. He expressed support for the shipyard’s ongoing construction of the Acadia, a rock installation vessel that will help build offshore wind turbines. 

Shipyard workers, union representatives, and other stakeholders in the offshore wind and manufacturing industry were present to hear Biden’s remarks. President and CEO of Philly Shipyard Steinar Nerbøvik began the event by welcoming Biden to the Navy Yard and celebrating his company's apprenticeship program, which will graduate more than 200 shipbuilding apprentices within the next few years.

The White House adopted the term “Bidenomics” in recent weeks to refer to its economic agenda of making public investments, lowering costs, and growing the middle class. At the event, Biden described Bidenomics as a plan for “building the economy from the middle out and the bottom up.” 

He began by discussing how his economic policies have lowered inflation and unemployment while also growing manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania. Biden then endorsed the intersection of union work with clean energy efforts. 

“When I think climate, I think jobs. I think union jobs,” he said. 

Earlier that day, Biden attended the shipyard’s steelcutting ceremony for the Acadia. The construction project, contracted with the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company, will employ workers from local unions. 

Credit: Mollie Benn Workers at the Philadelphia Shipyards watch as President Biden speaks on July 20.

In his remarks, Biden called the ship “the first vessel of its kind that’s made in America — American owned, American operated.” He described the White House’s other offshore wind investment projects across the country, including its first wind energy lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico. 

“Our clean energy future will be made in America,” Biden said to applause.  

Biden also praised the rapid reopening of Interstate 95 following its partial collapse earlier this summer. He commended the efforts of Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro and other state officials, as well as the local unions that worked on the materials for the highway reconstruction. 

“Nobody thought we’d have it back open in less than two weeks,” Biden said. “But with American ingenuity, American workers, we proved everybody wrong.” 

Other speakers included Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, United States Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), and President and CEO of Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company Lasse Petterson. 

Biden last visited Philadelphia in June. He viewed the collapse site of Interstate 95 and spoke at a rally hosted by the AFL-CIO at the Philadelphia Convention Center. At the rally, Biden touted his commitment to being “the most pro-union president in American history,” a promise he repeated in his recent remarks at the Navy Shipyard. 

A former Benjamin Franklin Professor of Presidential Practice, Biden visited Penn for Commencement this year as his granddaughter and 2023 College graduate Maisy Biden graduated. 

The Biden administration has courted unions and labor organizations extensively, especially in Philadelphia. Vice President Kamala Harris attended a moderated conversation at the Service Employees International Union’s executive board meeting in June, and Biden visited Philadelphia in February to speak at the Democratic National Convention’s winter meeting. 

Penn has seen an uptick in union activity throughout the past year. Penn Medicine residents and fellows successfully voted to unionize on May 8, establishing Pennsylvania’s first housestaff union. Graduate Employees Together at the University of Pennsylvania, comprising over 1,900 Penn student workers, announced that its members signed authorization cards to form a union in April. A supermajority of Penn residential advisors and graduate resident associates filed to unionize in March. Additionally, workers at the Penn Museum have been in contract negotiations since October 2021. 

Biden ended his remarks by stating that while much work remains to rebuild the economy, he is optimistic about the country’s future. 

“[Bidenomics] is rooted in what always worked best for this country: investing in America, investing in Americans,” he said. “Because when you invest in our people — you strengthen the middle class — we see stronger economic growth that benefits everybody.”