Update: White House Says It Did Not Bar Media Coverage of Biden’s Speech to Labor Union

March 5, 2009 - 9:24 AM
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(Editor's note: Adds comments from Biden's office, saying the White House did not order the vice president's speech closed to the media, as the AFL-CIO reportedly told Fox News.)

(CNSNews.com) – When Vice President Joe Biden speaks to the annual meeting of AFL-CIO officials at the plush Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach Thursday morning, television cameras will not be allowed to cover his speech – on orders from the White House, Fox News quoted the AFL-CIO as saying.
 
But later Thursday morning, Biden's spokesperson disputed Fox's report, saying the White House did not request that Biden's speech be closed to the media: "Traditionally, the AFL-CIO Executive Council meetings are closed press," said Elizabeth Alexander, the vice president's spokesperson. "Each of its sessions this week have been closed press," she noted.

"As part of its unprecedented commitment to transparency, Vice President Biden’s office asked that a change to the policy be made so that a pool of print reporters would be allowed to cover the speech, and a full transcript of the vice president’s remarks will be sent out this afternoon.”

The Fontainebleau, which recently had a billion-dollar makeover, describes itself as “a spectacular blend of Miami’s glamorous golden era and stylish modern luxury." It has 1,504 rooms and suites, 22 oceanfront acres, 11 restaurants and nightclubs including three signature name chef restaurants, a 40,000-square-foot spa, and a "sophisticated poolscape" with private cabanas.
 
The AFL-CIO Executive Committee told Fox News it is holding its meeting at the Fontainebleau because the hotel agreed to employ union workers as part of its renovation project.  

A number of corporations are under fire for either holding or attempting to hold business meetings at resort hotels in these tough economic times.
 
After speaking to union members Thursday morning, Biden will tour Miami’s Intermodal Center, a transportation project funded by the Democrats’ economic stimulus bill.
 
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis also went to Miami this week. As a member of Congress, she supported the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would allow a simple majority of workers to form a union simply by checking a card. The AFL-CIO says Solis has promised to work for passage of the bill. 
 
Under card check, as soon as 51 percent of workers openly sign a card asking for union representation, the government would have to certify the union.
 
Critics call it the “Employee Forced Choice Bill.” They say by effectively removing secret-ballot union elections, the bill would make workers susceptible to harassment and intimidation by union organizers, who are eager to boost union membership in this country.