Government

Iowa City labor leader endorses Joe Biden for president

Bill Gerhard cites former vice president's ability to work with Republicans

Bill Gerhard of Iowa City, president of the Iowa State Building and Construction Trades Council, has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination. (The Gazette)
Bill Gerhard of Iowa City, president of the Iowa State Building and Construction Trades Council, has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination. (The Gazette)

Longtime Iowa City labor leader Bill Gerhard is endorsing Joe Biden for president, based on Biden’s electability, experience and common sense.

“He’s humble, he’s honest, he’s experienced, he’s hardworking,” Gerhard, who heads the Iowa State Building and Construction Trades Council, said in giving the former vice president his personal endorsement. “It’s quite the juxtaposition to the occupant of the White House now.”

It’s also important that Biden “comes from working people (and) stood up for working people his whole life,” said Gerhard, also a vice president of the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

“He seems like he’s more like us than a lot of the others,” said Gerhard, who worked construction to pay his way at the University of Iowa.

Although he’s endorsing Biden, Gerhard, who became business manager of the building and trades council in the 1970s, said he’s not criticizing any of the 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls.

“I think we have a great field,” he said.

When he calls Biden electable, Gerhard said he’s talking about the former vice president’s experience in the Senate and during eight years as a vice president, Gerhard said.

“He didn’t just sit in the wings and not do anything,” Gerhard said. “President Barack Obama pressed him into service.”

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It’s also important to Gerhard that Biden can reach across the aisle to work with Republicans to get things done. “We’re pretty polarized right now and that’s not healthy for the country.”

Gerhard, who grew up in a Republican community in western Iowa, said he remembers when “reaching across the aisle, being able to work with people was considered to be an asset. I know we can’t turn back time, but we’ve got to get back to where we can work with people we disagree with.”

Another factor in his decision to endorse was Biden’s position on health care. Biden has rejected the Medicare-for-all proposals by some other candidates while supporting a public option. He wants to build on the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — not replace it, he says.

“I know where Joe stood on it, and that’s where I stood, too,” Gerhard said.

He supports Biden’s plan for a public option for people who can’t get insurance or might want to be on a Medicare plan.

“Do I want to give up my insurance for it?” he said. “No, and I think most of the building trades people would agree with that.”

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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