Joe Biden became the first sitting President to join the picket line when he paid a visit to striking Union Auto Workers (UAW) on Tuesday, September 26th, in Michigan. Hoping to burnish his pro-union credentials, Biden, speaking into a bullhorn, echoed the sentiment of the strikers. “You deserve what you earned, and you’ve earned…a lot more than you’re getting paid now.”
The President Sides with the Union
The union is demanding a 40% increase in wages over 4 years. According to a transcript released by the White House, Biden agreed. “Yes, I think they should be able to bargain for that.”
Union President Speaks
Appearing alongside Biden, Shawn Fain, the president of the UAW, described the moment as historic. Fain went on to say, “Our President chose to stand up with workers in our fight for economic and social justice.”
Fain met Biden on the tarmac, greeting the president with a black UAW baseball cap, which Biden wore outside the General Motors’ Willow Run Redistribution Center, in Belleville, Michigan. “We know the President will do right by the working class!” Fain declared.
Trump Hosts Competing Event
Meanwhile, Biden’s expected rival in the 2024 election, former President Donald Trump, spoke at a non-union auto supplier. Trump skipped the 2nd GOP Presidential debate to make the speech.
Trump argued that the Biden administration, by providing large subsidies to buyers of electric vehicles, is dismantling the job prospects of striking workers, who work in plants that make gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles.
“It doesn‘t matter what…you’re getting an hour,” Trump said. “Just get your union guys, your leaders, to endorse me and I’ll take care of the rest.”
The Detroit Free Press struggled to find actual members of the UAW at Trump’s event. One woman holding a “union members for Trump” sign wasn’t actually a union member. A second person with a sign said he, too, wasn’t an auto worker.
A Crucial Demographic
Robert Bruno, professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois, stressed the importance of these competing visits to Michigan. Bruno argued that both candidates are saying, “they can’t win without this broad, somewhat amorphous working class.”
Trump lost Michigan to Biden by roughly 154,000 votes. Michigan, along with Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, makes up a group of Rust Belt states that Trump lost in 2020 but won in 2016. All three states will play an important role in the 2024 election.
UAW President on Meeting with Trump
UAW President Fain said that workers should reject former President Trump’s attempts to win them over. “I see no point in meeting with him because I don’t think the man has any bit of care about what our workers stand for, what the working class stands for,” Fain told CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer. “He serves the billionaire class and that’s what’s wrong with this country.”
When Blitzer pressed on whether Fain was endorsing Biden, Fain responded, “It’s not an endorsement for anyone. It’s just flat-out how I view the former president.”
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