President-elect Joe Biden hosted a joint meeting Nov. 16 with labor union leaders and the chief executives of major tech, retail and auto companies, including Indian American Microsoft president and CEO Satya Nadella and Gap CEO Sonia Syngal.
CNBC reports that the business leaders at the virtual meeting also included General Motors CEO Mary Barra and Target chairman and chief executive Brian Cornell.
Biden said later that he told the CEOs, “I want you to know I’m a union guy,” adding “that’s not anti-business,” the report said. “Unions are going to have increased power [in a Biden administration],” Biden said. In response, Biden said the CEOs just nodded, the report added.
Labor leaders present for the meeting were AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka; Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union; Rory Gamble, president of the United Auto Workers; Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, it added.
“You all have different perspectives on how we can best deal with the virus. And how we can make sure workers and small businesses stay safe, and we get back to rolling like we should,” said Biden, who was joined by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
The event marked the first time that Biden as president-elect has formally convened business and labor leaders to discuss his economic recovery agenda.
The former vice president joked that he deserved “a Nobel Prize” for having brought together union leaders and CEOs at the same event, according to the report.
The meeting was the latest example of Biden forging ahead with the traditional schedule of events for a president-elect, despite the fact that President Donald Trump has refused to concede the race, it said.
Each of the labor leaders represented a union that either wholly or in part endorsed Biden’s presidential campaign. But the attendance of such high-profile CEOs was more noteworthy, largely because it represented a public endorsement of Biden’s legitimacy as president-elect, the report added.
Also Nov. 16, Harris delivered her first prepared remarks on the coronavirus - battered US economy. Harris spoke after meetings with industry leaders and took the stage ahead of Joe Biden.
“As I said the night we won this election: now is when the real work begins. The necessary work. The good work,” she said as part of her speech.
“Of getting this virus under control, saving lives, beating this pandemic, and opening our economy responsibly while rebuilding it so it works for working people,” the vice president-elect added.
“And we will do it by protecting the health and safety of our workers. And by creating millions of good-paying union jobs - from auto and construction jobs, to domestic workers and caregiving jobs, to service and hospitality jobs.
“The road ahead will not be easy. But the President-elect Joe Biden and I are hitting the ground running,” she added.