MIAMI — Vice President Biden told the nation’s labor leaders here that passage of the Employee Free Choice Act is “the only way to restore what was the basic bargain in this country – in exchange for their productivity, and for being the spine of our economy, the workers get a piece of the action.” The presidents of 56 unions and several hundred others present rose to their feet in applause. They were gathered here March 5 on the closing day of the AFL-CIO’s executive council meeting.

“In the years from 2001 to 2007 there was an increase in worker productivity of 20 percent in this country,” Biden declared. “Based on that, during that period, the average family should have increased its earnings by $10,000. Yet, during that period, we know that the average family lost $2,000 in income. This is wrong. If you have workers with decent pay and decent benefits, everyone gains. It’s the only way to fix the economy. The Employee Free Choice Act will do this. If a union is what you want, a union is what you are entitled to have.”

The vice president talked about the challenges facing the Obama administration. “No president in modern history, including Roosevelt, was presented with as many serious and complex issues, all of which must be solved simultaneously – none can wait – not the wars, not unemployment, not health care.”

Biden said the people voted in November for “progressive, pro-worker, pro-family candidates and now they expect progressive, pro-worker and pro-family policies. When the average CEO makes $10,000 more in a day than the average worker makes in a year – that’s something we have to change. What we want is nothing more than fairness. We want to go back to long established principles. We want the law obeyed. The National Labor Relations Act says ‘it is this nation’s policy to encourage collective bargaining.’ That’s what the law says.” He was interrupted with another standing ovation.

Biden said he took “great pride” in the pro-labor orientation of his administration and pointed to key accomplishments in the first month, including passage of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, appointment of Hilda Solis, “the daughter of a union family,” as secretary of labor, agreements at federally funded construction projects that incorporate union wages for union laborers, removal of federal funding from employers that try to use that money in anti-labor campaigns and the $778 billion stimulus package, “which is focused on jobs to rebuild our roads, bridges, transportation and communication networks.”

He scored the right wing for saying, “basically, that the government should do nothing.”

“Doing nothing is not an option. It would mean that we could lose another 5 million jobs,” the vice president said.

Biden also said, “on the issue of health care reform, we are way past the argument of whether health care is a right or a privilege. We will not survive, economically, unless there is affordable health care for every American.” He said that the allocation of $630 billion by the Obama administration is “proof positive that we are intent on getting this done.” He said that “many sections of big business are on board on this. They realize that they can’t compete with businesses in countries that have dealt with this issue.”

He said that the Obama administration’s extension of health coverage to 4 million children who were not covered is another indication of the administration’s intent in this area.

Biden said that ending tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas and that asking people who earn more than $250,000 a year to “pay a little more” in taxes is “not asking too much to help pay for these things, things needed to lift up our whole country.”