Biden His Time

Gary Villani

Gary Villani Writer, Retired, USW Local 959

On May 2, 2011, hours before I underwent brain surgery, news broke that Osama bin Laden had been killed by Navy Seals. “At least I outlived you, you son of a bitch!”

Sitting up, I had accidentally pulled several EEG leads loose from my partially shaved head. An alarm sounded. I apologized to the responding nurses.

I described that moment to Beau Biden a year later, after he led a group of veterans marching in a Fayetteville, North Carolina voter registration drive.

I was still catching my breath and wiping my brow when the Vice President’s son walked over and asked if I was doing alright.

“Yes sir, I’m fine, thank you.” Sketching a salute with my walking stick, I said, “We’ve got other things in common besides we’re both voting for your dad.”

“Is that right?”

“Yes sir. We both served in Iraq—and we both battled brain illness afterwards.”

“And here we still are.” Biden smiled and the genuineness of his expression touched my heart.

I offered a quick account of my medical marathon, including the night bin Laden’s death cheered me up, then identified myself as a 2012 Obama organizing fellowship selectee. I expressed my regret that due to medical setbacks I wasn’t able to do more for the campaign.

“Well, I’m glad you’re out here with us today.”

“Likewise!” I replied. “As a Goodyear Steelworker, the tariff the Obama Administration slapped on China in 2009 for dumping cheap tires in North America made a difference that might’ve saved our jobs. Your father understands what it means to have the backs of the middle class.”

Beau looked proud. I was glad my tendency to get a little tongue tied had given me a break for change.

“My dad always interrogates me for good stories from the campaign trail. This is one I know he’ll like.”

Beau Biden’s death in 2015 from a relentless form of brain cancer deeply saddened me.

Weeks ago, I learned that Joe Biden would appear at the Kimmel Center, in downtown Philadelphia on November 15th to discuss his book, Promise Me, Dad. The man charged with moderating the talk and asking questions would be none other than America’s Shakespeare—the founding father of West Wing, Aaron Sorkin.

All I had to do was score a seat, book a room, and be there.

Being there was a no-brainer in this hate-riddled, tinybrain age of trumpism.

When Mr. Sorkin asked Mr. Biden what keeps him up on sleepless nights these days, President Barack Obama’s rock steady, two term understudy leaned toward the crowd as if meaning to answer eye-to-eye. “I bet less than ten percent of you gave much if any thought to an exchange of nuclear weapons before last Election Day, did you?”

The talk was everything I hoped for—insightful, uplifting and inspiring.

At the end, I couldn’t restrain myself from hollering loud enough to be sure I was heard, “Run, Joe! Run!”


Posted In: Union Matters

Union Matters

Failing Bridges Hold Public Hostage

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) gave the public just a few hours’ notice before closing a major bridge in March, citing significant safety concerns.

The West Seattle Bridge functioned as an essential component of  the city’s local and regional transportation network, carrying 125,000 travelers a day while serving Seattle’s critical maritime and freight industries. Closing it was a huge blow to the city and its citizens. 

Yet neither Seattle’s struggle with bridge maintenance nor the inconvenience now facing the city’s motorists is unusual. Decades of neglect left bridges across the country crumbling or near collapse, requiring a massive investment to keep traffic flowing safely.

When they opened it in 1984, officials predicted the West Seattle Bridge would last 75 years.

But in 2013, cracks started appearing in the center span’s box girders, the main horizontal support beams below the roadway. These cracks spread 2 feet in a little more than two weeks, prompting the bridge’s closure.

And it’s still at risk of falling.  

The city set up an emergency alert system so those in the “fall zone” could be quickly evacuated if the bridge deteriorates to the point of collapse.

More than one-third of U.S. bridges similarly need repair work or replacement, a reminder of America’s urgent need to invest in long-ignored infrastructure.

Fixing or replacing America’s bridges wouldn’t just keep Americans moving. It would also provide millions of family-supporting jobs for steel and cement workers, while also boosting the building trades and other industries.

With bridges across the country close to failure and millions unemployed, America needs a major infrastructure campaign now more than ever.


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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work