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The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

Biden aims to capitalize on Labor’s moment

The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. After our annual summer hiatus, we’re back! On this day in 1995, “the Iron Man” bested “the Iron Horse” as Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr., broke New York Yankees first-baseman Lou Gehrig’s record by playing his 2,131st consecutive game.

The big idea

Small victories and better poll numbers buoy unions

Organized Labor is having a moment. And President Biden is trying to turn that into an asset for Democrats, who are expressing increasing optimism that what was once forecast to be a red Republican wave in November won’t completely swamp their meager congressional majorities.

What kind of moment? On balance, a pretty good one. The kind a politician who regularly promises to be “the most pro-union president leading the most pro-union administration in American history” could be expected to try to turn to his party’s benefit.

Seventy-one percent of Americans approve of labor unions, Gallup reported last week. The number has steadily risen since a low-water mark of 48 percent in 2009, and now sits at its highest point since 1965. (It was 68 percent last year, and 64 percent before the pandemic.)

(The caveat: Union membership, in both raw numbers and as a percentage of the workforce, has steadily declined. And Gallup found that 58 percent of nonunion workers say they are “not interested at all” in joining one, while just 1 in 10 are “very interested.”)

Union victories

The same day Gallup delivered its poll results, my colleague Lauren Kaori Gurley chronicled how the “red-hot labor market” has led to “small, but notable” union victories in Biden’s first year and a half.

“Workers have voted to unionize for the first time in recent weeks at Trader Joe’s and Chipotle. Unions have also made significant inroads at Amazon, Starbucks, Apple and REI, employers that have long resisted unionization,” Lauren reported. (Amazon founder and executive chairman Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

(One of her caveats: “Despite a 56 percent uptick in filings for union elections nationwide in the first three quarters of the 2022 fiscal year, labor experts say that many of these victories at major employers such as Amazon and Starbucks are mostly symbolic, covering a mere sliver of these companies’ enormous workforces.”)

Back in July, Bloomberg News’s Ryan Beene chronicled the “rapidly accelerating” trend of American corporations bringing manufacturing back home — fed by disenchantment with overseas locales like China and the massive disruptions the pandemic inflicted on just-in-time production.

Beene notes two clear caveats: Automation means fewer workers are needed, so regaining the millions of manufacturing jobs lost over the past decades is unlikely; and the dollar’s rising strength against other major currencies means it’s more expensive to make things here versus other places than it had been.

But Beene does a great job of pulling things together in one place: “The construction of new manufacturing facilities in the US has soared 116% over the past year, dwarfing the 10% gain on all building projects combined, according to Dodge Construction Network. There are massive chip factories going up in Phoenix: Intel is building two just outside the city; Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing is constructing one in it. And aluminum and steel plants that are being erected all across the south, including in Bay Minette, Alabama (Novelis); in Osceola, Arkansas (US Steel); and in Brandenburg, Kentucky (Nucor). Near Buffalo, all this new semiconductor and steel output is fueling orders for air compressors that will be cranked out at an Ingersoll Rand plant that had been shuttered for years.”

Biden on the trail

All of these dynamics probably shaped Biden’s Labor Day trips to Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, Democratic strongholds in states that will factor heavily into whether Democrats keep control of the Senate.

There he was, in his element, touting successes in defeating corporate interests — “We’re going to change people’s lives. We finally beat Pharma!” And crediting unions for his political survival, including in 2020  — “I wouldn’t be here without unions.” 

He also underlined a historic win for unions: A massive retirement-fund bailout included in his American Rescue Plan, which cleared Congress with nary a GOP vote, “to protect pensions all of you worked so damn hard for — pensions you sacrificed for.”

By now, you know caveats are coming.

My colleagues Patrick Marley and Ashley Parker noted that some Democratic candidates steered clear of Biden’s appearances, as could be expected given his wobbly job-approval numbers.

So while the president name-checked Mandela Barnes, the Democratic candidate for Senate in Wisconsin, Barnes wasn’t there. And Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D), now running for governor, wasn’t with Biden Monday — “though the two men had appeared together just last week, in Wilkes-Barre,” my colleagues reported.

And Bloomberg’s Katia Dmitrieva and Jordan Fabian reported over the weekend on how some union rank-and-file don’t feel the love for Biden.

It’s not clear to what extent outreach to organized labor will be central to Biden’s campaigning ahead of the midterms. CNN’s Kevin Liptak reports the president plans to travel 2 to 3 times a week until Election Day.

Will there be a sustained focus on unions? Or was this a Labor Day moment?

What’s happening now

Russia buying weapons from North Korea for Ukraine war, U.S. intelligence says

Moscow is preparing to buy ‘millions of rockets and artillery shells’ from Pyongyang, a U.S. official told The Washington Post on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity about the declassified intelligence, which was first reported by the New York Times,” Adela Suliman and John Hudson report.

Russia’s Nord Stream pipeline closure lands economic blow against Europe

“Power prices surged, European currencies hit multidecade lows and governments scrambled to contain the economic hit after Russia cut its main natural-gas pipeline to Europe,” the Wall Street Journal's Joe Wallace and Kim Mackrael report.

The cutoff, which the Kremlin blamed Monday on Western sanctions and said would be long-lasting, realizes the worst-case scenario Europe had been girding for since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.”

Massachusetts primaries divide state and national figures

“Voters head to the polls on Tuesday in Massachusetts, where a candidate for governor backed by Donald Trump is vying against a more centrist rival in the Republican primary and Democrats are picking a nominee for state attorney general in a race that has divided the two U.S. senators and other party leaders in the deep-blue state,” Annie Linskey reports.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

Election deniers repeatedly visited Ga. county office at center of criminal probe, video shows

Technology consultants who sought evidence that Donald Trump’s 2020 defeat was fraudulent made multiple visits to a county elections office in rural Georgia in the weeks after an alleged post-election breach of voting equipment there that is the subject of a criminal investigation,” Emma Brown and Jon Swaine report.

“Surveillance video reviewed by The Washington Post shows that the consultants, Doug Logan and Jeffrey Lenberg, made two visits in January 2021 to the elections office in Coffee County, about 200 miles south of Atlanta. Lenberg made an additional five visits on his own. The two men are under investigation for separate alleged breaches of voting machines in Michigan.”

Politico’s new German owner has a ‘contrarian’ plan for American media

“A newcomer to the community of billionaire media moguls, [Mathias Döpfner] is given to bold pronouncements and visionary prescriptions. He’s concerned that the American press has become too polarized — legacy brands like the New York Times and The Washington Post drifting to the left, in his view, while conservative media falls under the sway of Trumpian ‘alternative facts.’ So in Politico, the fast-growing Beltway political journal, he sees a grand opportunity,” Sarah Ellison reports.

“We want to prove that being nonpartisan is actually the more successful positioning,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post. He called it his “biggest and most contrarian bet.”

… and beyond

GOP still has inside track to House majority despite Dem gains

“Democrats had a summer they never thought possible. It still may not be enough to keep the House. A month of special election upsets and improved standing in generic ballot polling have narrowed a House battlefield that seemed to be expanding for the GOP into some heavily blue districts. The shift has lifted some Democratic incumbents out of immediate peril and made some Republican members squirm after feeling safe earlier this year,” Politico's Ally Mutnick, Sarah Ferris and Elena Schneider report.

‘Deeply problematic’: Experts question judge’s intervention in Trump inquiry

“A federal judge’s extraordinary decision on Monday to interject in the criminal investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s hoarding of sensitive government documents at his Florida residence showed unusual solicitude to him, legal specialists said,” the New York Times's Charlie Savage reports.

This was ‘an unprecedented intervention by a federal district judge into the middle of an ongoing federal criminal and national security investigation,’ said Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at University of Texas.”

The Biden agenda

Biden administration has admitted one million migrants to await hearings

“At a modest hotel a few miles from the ocean here, most of the rooms have been occupied this summer by families from African countries seeking asylum — 192 adults and 119 children in all,” the NYT's Eileen Sullivan reports.

They are among the more than one million undocumented immigrants who have been allowed into the country temporarily after crossing the border during President Biden’s tenure, part of a record-breaking cascade of irregular migration around the world.”

Biden administration releases plan for $50 billion investment in chips

“The Department of Commerce on Tuesday unveiled its plan for dispensing $50 billion aimed at building up the domestic semiconductor industry and countering China, in what is expected to be the biggest U.S. government effort in decades to shape a strategic industry,” the NYT's Ana Swanson reports.

Biden accuses GOP Senator Ron Johnson of targeting Social Security benefits

“Biden several times singled out Johnson — who polls indicate is trailing Democrat Mandela Barnes, the lieutenant governor, in his bid for a third term in November — citing also his opposition to a Democratic plan aimed at lowering prescription drug prices,” Bloomberg News's Jennifer Jacobs and Alexis Shanes report.

The Biden administration is gambling that a little-studied vaccine can stop monkeypox

“Since monkeypox began its unprecedented spread through the nation in May, more than 352,600 people in the U.S. have placed their trust in a vaccine that has never undergone trials to evaluate how well it fights the virus in humans,” Politico's Krista Mahr reports.

How Biden could help U.S. reach climate goals on his own

“The Biden administration has already undertaken dozens of executive actions on climate, but a new report out Monday details what could lie ahead. Activists are pushing White House officials, who are eager to mobilize the party’s base in the November election and are less worried about alienating centrist lawmakers over energy policy, to do more,” Allyson Chiu reports.

How the U.S. is stretching the monkeypox vaccine supply, visualized

“The goal of a subcutaneous injection is to inject the vaccine into the subcutaneous tissue below the dermis layers. A needle is inserted at a 45-degree angle. This method is relatively easy to do and does not require much training. Vaccines injected into this layer absorb more slowly than other methods,” Aaron Steckelberg explains.

Hot on the left

Kamala Harris: ‘This is the beginning of the next era of the labor movement’

To a far greater extent than many Americans are aware, the vice president knows her way around the labor movement. As the daughter of an activist mother who brought her along to join picket lines, and as a product of the rough-and-tumble politics of one of America’s great union towns, San Francisco, she is informed and engaged with labor issues. And she displays as much passion as President Joe Biden has for transforming the character of labor relations in a country where unions have been let down by both Republican and Democratic administrations,” John Nichols writes for the Nation

Hot on the right

‘They’re getting killed among women’: Skeptical female voters stand in way of GOP Senate

The GOP’s struggle to attract women voters may turn out to be the biggest obstacle standing between the party and a potential Senate majority in 2023. A Wall Street Journal poll released Thursday showed that abortion was the single issue most likely to drive respondents to vote this fall, above inflation. And 52 percent of white suburban women say they would support a Democratic candidate in the election, the poll found, while only 40 percent said they would vote for the Republican,” Politico's Natalie Allison reports.

Today in Washington

Biden will hold a Cabinet meeting at 1:15 p.m.

In closing

Why do we celebrate Labor Day? So Grover Cleveland could own the left.

“Both May Day and Labor Day were honored in the United States by various labor groups for years, though the former had a reputation for being more political, more radical and less merry than the latter. For that reason, Labor Day was always more popular with lawmakers, and more than 20 states had made it a state holiday by 1894,” Gillian Brockell explains

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.