HAMPTON, Ill. — Vice President Al Gore sought to cement the Clinton administration's occasionally rocky ties with the labor movement by delivering a rousing union-boosting speech at a Labor Day rally.
"It's time for a new unionism," Gore said. "It's time for a new effort to organize working men and women in this country."
Gore traveled to the banks of the Mississippi River to march in a parade and appear with AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and Labor Secretary Alexis M. Herman at a rally attended by more than 700 unionists.
Ties between President Clinton and organized labor have occasionally been strained, but Sweeney declared that Gore "has been a singular voice on behalf of the right of every worker to form or join a union free from harassment or intimidation."
For his part, Gore issued a ringing endorsement of organized labor.
"It means a new awareness of the fact that wages need to go up when productivity and profits go up," he said.
The vice president, considered the early front-runner for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2000, said Republican Party leaders and others convinced themselves beginning in the early 1980s "that if they could bluff unions it would somehow be good for the United States of America. Well, they were wrong."
Gore made it clear Monday that he will side with labor should he seize the party's nomination.
The union leaders also made it clear that both Clinton and Gore went a long way to healing any rift when the administration refused to intervene in the Teamsters' strike against United Parcel Service.
Gore said the Clinton administration's backing for the minimum wage increase sent a clear signal that workers should side with Democrats.
The minimum wage increased by 40 cents on Monday and is now $5.15 an hour. That is the second phase of an increase approved by Congress.
The area on both sides of the Mississippi encompasses the cities of Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, and Rock Island, Moline and East Moline, Ill. Iowa, where one of the early voter tests of the presidential primary election campaign is held, is already being trolled by would-be presidential candidates of both parties.