DETROIT—President Joe Biden told auto workers picketing outside General Motors' Willow Run Distribution Center in Wayne County, Michigan, that they deserve a "significant raise."
Speaking through a bullhorn in front of a United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 174 crowd, the president reiterated previous statements that the auto workers "saved the automobile industry back in 2008 and before" and made plenty of sacrifices when the auto companies "were in trouble."
"And now they’re doing incredibly well, and guess what, you should be doing incredibly well, too," President Biden said alongside UAW President Shawn Fain.
"You deserve what you've earned, and you've earned a hell of a lot more than you get paid now."
Mr. Fain accused CEOs of taking all the profits and leaving workers "left to fight for scraps and live paycheck to paycheck."
"That's got to end," Mr. Fain said as he stood in front of the president.
"These CEOs sitting in their office, they make the decisions, but we make the product," he added. "We do the heavy lifting. We do the real work. The economy is of our making."
When someone in the crowd asked if workers deserved a 40 percent pay increase, President Biden responded, "Yes, I think they should be able to bargain for that."
The union welcomed the president’s attendance, and many workers were pleased to learn that President Biden was paying a visit to the picket lines.
"That really makes me happy to see that the president of the United States wants to come and perhaps join the union, stand with us, and perhaps even picket," Patrick Smalley, a Ford Motor employee who has been with the company for 35 years, told The Epoch Times.
But Justin Green, another Ford worker, was not overly excited about President Biden's announcement to attend because he has been disappointed with the administration's track record.
"I feel that Biden hasn't shown an immense track record of supporting the union, just with his record with the railroad workers," Mr. Green told The Epoch Times. "We would like to see him support us a good bit more before we do actually endorse him."
But while President Biden's visit is garnering all the attention, the union noted that everyone was welcome to visit the picket lines.
"On picket lines across America, UAW members are standing up for an economy that rewards every worker for the value we create," the UAW said in a statement. "And Americans from all walks of life, from our friends and neighbors to the President of the United States, are standing with us."
The problem for many auto workers and other attendees was that the White House did not disclose the location of the event, citing security concerns.
Nevertheless, the UAW head thanked President Biden for speaking, although he only spoke for a little more than a minute.
"Thank you, Mr. President, for coming. ... We know the President will do right by the working class," Mr. Fain said.
Big Three and Joe BidenMeanwhile, the Big Three automakers refrained from criticizing the president's visit, choosing to highlight their latest offers instead.
"President Biden said UAW workers 'deserve a contract that sustains them and the middle class.' We agree and presented a record offer," said Stellantis in a statement to The Epoch Times. "Unlike the non-unionized transplants and EV startups who comprise the majority of the U.S. market, Stellantis relies on the collaboration between management and labor to ensure that our company remains competitive, and, therefore, sustainable. That is a position we have proudly embraced. But it also requires a balanced agreement that fairly rewards our workforce for their contribution to our success, without significantly disadvantaging Stellantis against our non-union competitors."
General Motors noted that it presented a "record economic proposal” to the union leadership. Ford stated that it would work with UAW to develop "creative solutions to tough issues together at the bargaining table."
The UAW leadership is demanding a 40 percent pay increase, a 32-hour work week with 40-hour pay, the restoration of traditional defined benefit pension plans, a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), and other inflation-protection measures.
The Detroit Three automakers have come back with more than 20 percent pay increases. But the companies differ on other issues.
As of Sept. 22, Ford reinstated the COLA formula that had been suspended in 2009. But UAW says GM and Stellantis' COLA proposals were "deficient." Ford will allow workers to strike over plant closures and offer income security for up to two years with health care "in the event of an indefinite layoff." According to the union, GM and Stellantis rejected the organization's job security proposals.
"No one wants a strike," President Biden said. "But I respect workers' right to use their options under the collective bargaining system. Autoworkers sacrificed so much to keep the industry alive and strong, especially through the economic crisis and the pandemic. Workers deserve a fair share of the benefits they helped create for an enterprise."
The UAW strike is now in its 12th day.
A Prelude to the Trump RallyFormer President Donald Trump will skip the second Republican primary debate on Sept. 27 and hold a rally with auto workers in Detroit.
Ahead of President Biden's visit, he slammed the administration's "draconian and indefensible" electric automobile efforts that "will annihilate" the auto sector and cost thousands of jobs.
“The only thing Biden could say today that would help the striking autoworkers is to announce the immediate termination of his ridiculous mandate,” President Trump said in a statement. “Anything else is just a feeble and insulting attempt to distract American labor from this vicious Biden betrayal.”
Asked by reporters if President Biden's visit to Michigan was because of President Trump's planned rally, Mrs. Jean-Pierre said it was "absolutely not” the reason.
"This decision to visit the picket line was based off his own desire. This is what the president wanted to do—to stand with auto workers. That’s what you’re going to see the President do tomorrow," Ms. Jean-Pierre stated before the visit. "He accepted that invitation and was proud—is proud to do so."
Since the start of the UAW strike, President Trump has routinely railed against the current administration's push for electric vehicles, warning that the "ridiculous insistence on all-electric cars" will lead to these automobiles being made in China.
President Trump has also slammed UAW President Shawn Fain while encouraging the union to endorse his 2024 election campaign.