Updated 5:40 p.m. ET
(CBS News) Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday delivered a rousing defense of public workers and the labor movement at the annual convention of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in Los Angeles.
"You guys are under full-blown assault," he said, speaking to members of one of the nation's largest unions. "This is the greatest assault on working-class people and their unions that I've seen in my lifetime."
Public workers have faced cuts to salaries and benefits as their unions have stared down the prospect of having collective-bargaining powers severely restricted in states currently governed by Republican governors and legislatures. Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney threw fuel on the fire when he was accused of endorsing that kind of belt-tightening--even at the risk of slashing firefighters, teachers, and police officers.
Biden said that a Romney presidency would see more of the same policies enacted on the federal level.
"They hear 'labor,' and they hear 'enemy,' " Biden asserted in his fiery remarks. "They hear 'labor' and they see an opportunity to scapegoat labor for the problems they created."
"We owe you," Biden said. "Unions should not be vilified."
Correction: An earlier version of this story misquoted one of Biden's remarks. He said unions should not be vilified.