MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) – Vice President Joe Biden pressed the White House’s agenda for a new labor bill Thursday before the nation’s largest union.

The AFL-CIO “brought me to the dance a long time ago. And it’s time we start dancing, man,” he told the group, one of his biggest supporters during the election.

Biden spoke warmly during the nearly hourlong speech in Miami Beach, addressing many members by name and offering support for the Employee Free Choice Act, which would give workers the option of unionizing by signing cards or petitions instead of holding secret ballot elections.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama offered some of his most supportive comments for the Act since he took office, telling AFL-CIO members in a videotaped message that he will work to pass the bill.

Biden’s speech was the latest signal of the new administration’s pro-union tilt, including the appointment of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, the daughter of union members. She was also in Miami this week drumming up support for the bill.

Before the inauguration, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said he’d been to the White House only once in the past eight years. Now he visits at least once a week.

“He gave a strong statement of support for workers, their wages … collective bargaining and the Employee Free Choice Ace,” Sweeney said.

Biden echoed the Obama administration’s platform during the campaign saying they were committed to raising the standard of living for the middle class, the spine of the economy.

“For too long the middle class has been dealt out. I’m here to tell you in this administration it is dealt in. It is the first card on the table,” he said.

Obama’s first bill was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, an equal-pay bill that is popular with labor and women’s groups. It’s expected to make it easier for workers to sue for decades-old discrimination.

Labor officials say the Employee Free Choice Act could rebuild dwindling membership; one in eight workers today is a member of a union, down from about one in five 25 years ago.

Business groups vehemently oppose the legislation and claim passage will put many of their members out of business.

AP-ES-03-05-09 1824EST

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