UAW strike: Biden heads to Michigan to join picket line

VAN BUREN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — President Joe Biden grabbed a bullhorn on the picket line Tuesday and urged striking auto workers to “stick with it” in an unprecedented display of support for organized labor by a modern president. .

Wearing a union ballcap and exchanging fists, Biden told United Auto Workers strikers that “you deserve the significant wage increase that you need” as he arrived in Detroit just a day before a planned visit by former President Donald Trump. Stayed in the area, who is the frontrunner for this post. The Republican nomination in next year’s election.

“No deal, no wheels!” Workers chanted as Biden arrived at a General Motors parts distribution warehouse, one of several facilities targeted in a widespread strike now in its 12th day. “No payment, no parting!”

Despite concerns that a prolonged strike could weaken the economy, especially in the key battleground state of Michigan, the Democratic president encouraged workers to fight for better wages at a time when car companies’ profits are surging.

Asked if UAW members were entitled to a 40% raise, which was one of their demands during negotiations, Biden said: “Yes. I think they should be able to negotiate it.

He has repeatedly argued that auto companies have not gone far enough to meet union demands, especially after concessions were made in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

“The truth of the matter is that you guys, the UAW, you saved the automobile industry in 2008… You made a lot of sacrifices. You sacrificed a lot. And companies got into trouble. Now they are performing incredibly well and guess what? You should do incredibly well.”

FILE - United Auto Workers members and supporters hold a sit-in outside a General Motors facility in Langhorne, Pa., Friday, Sept. 22, 2023.  The United Auto Workers expanded their strike against major automakers on Friday, with 38 General Motors and Stellantis parts workers walking out of distribution.  Centers in 20 states.  (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

FILE – United Auto Workers members and supporters protest outside the General Motors facility in Langhorne, PA, Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

The White House said Biden is the first modern president to visit the picket line, a sign of how far he is willing to go to win union support for re-election.

Lawmakers frequently appear at strikes to show solidarity with unions, and Biden joined picketing demonstrations with casino workers in Las Vegas and auto workers in Kansas City while seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

But current presidents, who have to balance workers’ rights with disruptions to the economy, supply chains and other aspects of everyday life, have stayed out of the strike field — until Biden.

Undeterred, Trump called Biden’s visit “nothing more than a PR stunt by Crooked Joe Biden to distract and gaslight the American people from his disastrous Bidennomics policies, which have caused so much economic misery across the country “

FILE - President Joe Biden pauses after answering a question about the auto workers' strike as he speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Sept. 25, 2023.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

FILE – President Joe Biden pauses after answering a question about the auto workers’ strike as he speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Sept. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

The president spent less than a half-hour at the Willow Run Redistricting Center, where he was joined by UAW President Shawn Fenn, who rode with Biden in the presidential limousine to the picket line.

“Mr. President, thank you for standing with us in a moment that defines our generation,” said Fain, who described the union as engaged in “a kind of war” against “corporate greed.”

“We do heavy lifting. We do real work,” Fenn said. “Not the CEO.”

Labor historians said they could not recall any instance when a sitting president joined an ongoing strike, even during the tenures of ardent pro-union presidents such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Theodore Roosevelt invited mine operators as well as labor leaders to the White House during the historic coal strike in 1902, a decision that was seen at the time as a rare embrace of the unions as Roosevelt tried to resolve the dispute. Did.

Biden’s visit to the picket line was the most significant display of his pro-union goodwill, a record that includes vocal support for unionization efforts at facilities and executive actions promoting worker organizing. He too Earned joint support of major unions earlier this year and Have avoided Southern California for high-dollar fundraising Amidst the writers and actors strike in Hollywood.

United Farm Workers Announcing his endorsement of Biden on Tuesday, he called him “an authentic champion for workers and their families, regardless of their race or national origin.” Biden’s campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, is the granddaughter of union co-founder Cesar Chavez.

The UAW has not endorsed Biden. Asked about it after landing in Michigan, Biden told reporters, “I’m not worried about it.”

Fenn later said that any support would come later. “We have to get good contracts first and we will work on those things going forward,” he said.

At least one warehouse worker on the picket line was not impressed by the visit. Curtis Cranford, who has 38 years with GM, was glad Biden visited, but said it won’t necessarily keep him from voting Republican in 2024.

“I think it means a lot. Hopefully this will put some pressure on the company. The White House is behind us,” Cranford said.

Still, he said he and many union members disagree with Democrats on border security, abortion and other issues. And he said both Trump and Biden were too old for the job.

Biden and other Democrats are Aggressively promoting the President’s pro-labor credentials As Trump works to make inroads in key swing states where unions are influential, including Michigan and Pennsylvania. Biden is leaning on his union support at a time when workers enjoy broad support from the public, with 67% of Americans approving of labor unions in an August Gallup poll.

uaw strike, Which expanded to 20 states last weekremains Dilemma for Biden administration Because part of the workers’ complaints include concerns about the widespread transition to electric vehicles. The move away from gas-powered vehicles worries some autoworkers because electric versions require fewer people to build and there is no guarantee that the factories making them will be unionized.

Carolyn Nippa, who was picketing on Monday at the same GM warehouse that Biden visited, was ambivalent about the president’s advocacy for electric vehicles, even as she said Biden would Was a better president than Trump. “It’s great that we have a president who wants to support local unions and the working class,” he said.

“I know this is the future. This is the future of the car industry,” Nippa said of electric vehicles. “I hope it doesn’t affect our jobs.”

Trump is skipping the second Republican primary debate on Wednesday and will meet with striking autoworkers in Michigan, seeking to capitalize on discontent over the state of the economy and anger over the Biden administration’s push for more electric vehicles — part of its clean-energy is a major component of. Agenda.

White House officials rejected any notion that Trump coerced them and said Biden went to Michigan at the request of Fain, who last week invited the sitting president to join the strikers.

The Biden administration has no formal role in the talks, and the White House earlier this month walked back a decision from the president to send two key representatives to Michigan after determining it would be more effective than the advisers, Gene Sperling and the acting Labor Secretary. Will be more productive for Julie. Su, to monitor negotiations with Washington.

Fain said Tuesday that negotiations were progressing slowly and that they would expand the strike to more plants if necessary.


Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in Somerville, South Carolina, contributed to this report.

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