Washington (CNN)Vice President Joe Biden blasted Republicans on Monday for crafting "a well-organized, well-paid, well-funded effort to undermine organized labor" and urged an audience of firefighters to challenge potential GOP presidential contenders on the issue.
Joe Biden hits Republicans on labor
Addressing the International Association of Fire Fighters conference in Washington, Biden argued that Republicans in Congress and Republican governors were obstructing the efforts of the National Labor Relations Board and other legislation aimed to protect workers.
Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina -- three lawmakers who are heading towards a presidential bid -- are set to address the same conference on Tuesday.
"I understand you're going to hear from a bunch of candidates tomorrow," Biden said. "Ask them whether they think you're a drag on the community, whether you're an obstacle to overcome ... Make a judgment. Do they understand you? Do they get who you are? Do they get what this is about?"
Biden, who got a big applause when he talked about fighting for collective bargaining rights, accused Republicans of carrying out a "stunning pattern of disregard" for public safety employees and unions.
"They act like you're the community's problem, as if you caused the recession," said Biden, who's considering another presidential bid in 2016. "See if these guys get what this is all about, because we've got to change the dismissive contempt that is taking hold in this new outfit."
"They're not looking for striped shirts, guys, they're looking for black shirts. Not referees," he argued.
Scott Walker of Wisconsin is one Republican governor who's rocketed to national GOP fame by taking on unions in 2011. Police and fire labor, however, were exempted from his successful effort to strip collective bargaining rights from public unions.
Walker signed into law a right-to-work measure on Monday, which bans private sector businesses and unions from requiring employees to pay union fees or dues. The legislation does not apply to public unions, including police and fire.