ATLANTIC CITY - Vice President Joseph Biden urged union members to work for fellow Democrat Gov. Jon S. Corzine, tying their fortunes together during a time of recession.
"The thing that is most essential now is to have somebody who is in a position of power who understands the pain of the American people," Biden said, "and who has a heart and says 'I'm willing to risk my career to put parents in this state in the position to say [to their children] 'Honey, its going to be alright.''"
Biden told about 500 union members gathered for the closing of the two-day New Jersey AFL-CIO 2009 Legislative Conference at the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa that economic recovery was not enough -- unless middle-class workers also benefited.
"It's not enough that we should recover based on econometric models of growth rates in the overall economy. Its not enough that we create jobs. Its necessary that we create decent jobs, sustainable jobs," said Biden, as union members applauded.
Biden, a former Delaware Senator, served with Corzine in the Senate for several years before Corzine won state election in 2005.
Biden said that he and President Barack Obama sought the advice of Corzine, a former Goldman Sachs CEO, as the nation's banks spiraled downward last year.
"Looks what it means to for the state," Biden said of subsequent federal legislation he said Corzine was the first to suggest. Biden said the state has received $6 billion in commitments as part of $17.5 billion overall that will be spent in New Jersey.
"What would have happened with the state budget?" Biden said, saying about 35,000 teachers and 1,000 police and fire fighters would have lost their jobs otherwise.
Corzine, usually a wonkish speaker, was much more expressive and dynamic, eliciting repeated cheers from the union membership as he urged them on over the final 27 days of the race.
He said that he would have not won election to the Senate or Governor without union member's support. "If you leave no vote uncast," Corzine said, "we will be standing together on the night of Nov. 3."
Corzine said the state would not have enacted paid family leave legislation, begun a new school or worked on a new port in Paulsboro, Gloucester County, without firm labor support.
State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech also reminded union members of the closing election, saying they needed 1,200 members working the coming weekends.
The speakers were dwarfed by an American flag about 15 feet tall and about 20 feet long that hung on the wall behind them.
Wednesday marked the vice president's third visit to the state this year, following stops in Lodi, Bergen County in May to promote the federal stimulus program and in West Orange, Essex County, the following month for Corzine's official campaign kick-off.
National Democrats have taken a keen interest in the governor's race, and the state has seen federal cabinet members shuttling back and forth for events in the state. President Barack Obama even appeared in July.
Republicans jabbed Corzine on Wednesday, citing earlier press reports that the governor signed an agreement with the Communications Workers of America union that staved off a picket line at the campaign kick-off.
"Instead of fighting for fiscal responsibility and representing the best interests of New Jersey taxpayers, he gave away the store to public employee unions," Instead of taking on a serious and important negotiation with public employees," New Jersey Republican State Committee Chairman Jay Webber said in a release, "the governor made taxpayers pick up the tab so he could avoid political embarrassment."