WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden hosted a joint meeting Monday with labor union leaders and the chief executives of major tech, retail and auto companies.
The business leaders at the virtual meeting were General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Microsoft president and CEO Satya Nadella, Target chairman and chief executive Brian Cornell and Sonia Syngal, CEO of Gap.
Biden said later that he told the CEOs, “I want you to know I’m a union guy,” adding “that’s not anti-business.”
“Unions are going to have increased power [in a Biden administration],” Biden said. In response, Biden said the CEOs just nodded.
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.
“To state the obvious, we’re in a pretty dark hole right now,” Biden said at the start of the meeting. “We face a dark winter ahead with Covid.”
“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.
“We all agree on common goals. We’re pretty much in lockstep,” Biden continued. “We agree that we can’t just build back [after Covid], we need to build back better.”
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.
“I’m looking forward to hearing what’s on your mind,” Biden said to the group. “What is top of mind on Covid and getting back to work safely?”
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.
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.
Following the meeting, Biden delivered remarks about his “build back better” economic plan, and urged Congress to pass a major Covid relief bill.
This is a developing story, please check back for updates.