Biden, Trump Headed to UAW Strike to Vie for Blue-Collar Support

President Biden, the first sitting president to visit the picket line, faces criticism for taking sides in the strike.
Biden, Trump Headed to UAW Strike to Vie for Blue-Collar Support
President Joe Biden delivers a speech on NATO at the Vilnius University in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 12, 2023, after the end of the NATO Summit. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images) / Former U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks during the Georgia state GOP convention at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center in Columbus, Ga., on June 10, 2023. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Emel Akan
Updated:
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President Joe Biden will travel to Detroit on Tuesday to stand shoulder to shoulder with auto union workers who have been on strike against the Big Three automakers since Sept. 15. Former President Donald Trump will also hold a rally on Wednesday in the Motor City, where he will express his solidarity with the striking autoworkers.

Both presidents want to win the support of the working class, but their strategies for the strike are different. President Biden’s focus is on securing fair compensation from corporations, while President Trump’s rally will center on safeguarding jobs amidst concerns about the impact of the Biden administration’s green energy agenda.

President Biden announced his plans to join the picket line on social media on Sept. 22, expressing support for members of the United Auto Workers (UAW). According to the White House, this will be the first time a sitting president has visited a picket line in modern times.

His decision has been met with criticism, however, with some claiming that he is taking a political risk by taking sides in the strike rather than mediating between the two sides.

The White House has defended the president’s decision, saying he is not participating in the negotiations.

“He spoke to the parties on both sides of this. He has made it very, very clear that he supports union workers; he supports the UAW workers. And tomorrow, what you’re going to see is historic,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday.

“We are not involved in negotiations. That is something for them to decide,” she added.

The president’s announcement came after UAW President Shawn Fain invited him to join a picket line in the organization’s strike last week.

“Tuesday, I’ll go to Michigan to join the picket line and stand in solidarity with the men and women of UAW as they fight for a fair share of the value they helped create,” President Biden wrote on Sept. 22 on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“It’s time for a win-win agreement that keeps American auto manufacturing thriving with well-paid UAW jobs.”

For the first time in its 88-year history, thousands of U.S. auto workers simultaneously walked off the job at Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis (the maker of Chrysler and Jeep) after their four-year contracts expired on Sept. 14.

A week later, the union expanded strikes to 38 parts and distribution locations across 20 states, targeting GM and Stellantis. Over 18,000 UAW members have walked off the job since the beginning of the strike.

Meanwhile, President Trump, the GOP frontrunner for the 2024 nomination, will attempt to sway union workers away from President Biden during his Detroit rally. The former president will skip the second Republican primary debate on Sept. 27 to give a speech to current and former union members.

The union leadership, however, criticized the former president for his planned rally in Detroit.

“Every fiber of our union is being poured into fighting the billionaire class and an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of workers,” Mr. Fain said in a statement.

The UAW, which represents nearly 146,000 workers at Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis, endorsed Joe Biden in 2020. For the 2024 presidential election, however, the union has refrained from endorsing President Biden due to concerns over his policies encouraging the shift to electric vehicles, which are causing traditional auto workers to lose their jobs.

President Trump criticized Mr. Fain and President Biden’s electric vehicle policies in a recent interview on NBC.

“I don’t know the gentleman, but I know his name very well, and I think he’s not doing a good job in representing his union, because he’s not going to have a union in three years from now. Those jobs are all going to be gone because all of those electric cars are going to be made in China,” President Trump said.

“The auto workers are being sold down the river by their leadership, and their leadership should endorse Trump.”

The UAW’s adept public relations efforts appear to be paying off, with a recent Gallup poll showing that 75 percent of Americans surveyed support the union in their negotiations with U.S. auto companies.

Representatives of the Big Three said they are “disappointed” in the lack of interest that union negotiators have shown in what the CEO’s have called “a historic” wage increase offer.

Stellantis issued a statement ahead of Biden’s visit to the picket line.

“On the first day of the strike, President Biden said UAW workers ‘deserve a contract that sustains them and the middle class.’ We agreed and presented a record offer. Here are the facts: 21.4% compounded wage increase, $1 billion in retirement security benefits, inflation protection measures, job security, and more,” the company told The Epoch Times in a statement.

However, the company expects a “balanced agreement” that does not significantly disadvantage Stellantis against its non-union competitors.

“We stand ready to sign a record contract that positions our company to continue providing good jobs here at home and be the winner as the U.S. transitions to an electrified future.”

Steven Kavoc, Andrew Moran, Catherine Yang contributed to this report.
Emel Akan is a senior White House correspondent for The Epoch Times, where she covers the Biden administration. Prior to this role, she covered the economic policies of the Trump administration. Previously, she worked in the financial sector as an investment banker at JPMorgan. She graduated with a master’s degree in business administration from Georgetown University.
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