UAW Criticizes Trump After Detroit Speech Announcement

The president had a message for autoworkers about their leadership.
UAW Criticizes Trump After Detroit Speech Announcement
(Left) Former President Donald Trump (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images) / (Right) United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain. (REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo)
Catherine Yang

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain issued a statement criticizing former President Donald Trump after news broke of the 2024 frontrunner’s plans to skip the second GOP primary debate to give a speech to autoworkers 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. “We can’t keep electing billionaires and millionaires that don’t have any understanding what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to get by and expecting them to solve the problems of the working class.”

President Trump skipped the first GOP primary debate to do an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson that aired at the same time as the live debate. The second Republican primary debate will take place in California on Sept. 27, which an aide told Reuters the GOP frontrunner will also skip.

The UAW has notably withheld its endorsement for President Joe Biden after endorsing him for his 2020 run, as the president’s electric vehicle push is creating tension. President Biden has referred to himself as the “most pro-union president” in American history, voicing support for striking workers in remarks at the White House.

Meanwhile, President Trump singled out Mr. Fain while criticizing President Biden’s electric vehicle policies, calling on the union to abandon its support for President Biden.

“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 in a recent interview on NBC.

“If you take a look at what they’re doing with electric cars, electric cars are going to be made in China,” he said. “The auto workers are being sold down the river by their leadership, and their leadership should endorse Trump.”

“You’ve got to have choice, like in school. I want school choice. I also want choice for cars. If somebody wants gasoline, if somebody wants all electric, they can do whatever they want,” added President Trump, who has been sparring over economic and energy policy with President Biden as the two campaign.

President Trump has put out Agenda 47, policies he would implement if voted into office as the 47th President of the United States. In campaign videos highlighting these policies, he has said he would get rid of President Biden’s energy policies “on day one.”

“They are absolutely destroying your business,” President Trump said of the government subsidies for electric vehicles at the expense of the market, referencing unsold electric vehicles “piling up on car lots” by the thousands.

“That’s why I’m going to terminate these Green New Deal atrocities on day one,” he said.

Labor experts have expressed skepticism that UAW would consider a Trump endorsement. Under the Biden administration, they’ve seen pro-unionizing rule changes and labor personnel installed. They’ve been “emboldened“ to demand the administration stay out of negotiations, voting to authorize strikes early and slamming the companies they are bargaining with in the media.
Asked if the White House could help the unions reach a deal with GM, Ford, and Stellantis, Mr. Fain said, “No, not at all.”
For years, it’s been tradition for the UAW president and the heads of the motor companies to shake hands in the ceremonial opening of negotiations. This year, Mr. Fain declined to do so. He’s also stood up the heads of companies, delaying negotiations to the deadline and making a strike seem inevitable, according to Bloomberg.
President Trump has seized on the poor view of “Bidenomics“ the American public holds in his appeal to auto workers. Despite the White House’s repeated claims of a booming economy, voters largely disapprove of his handling of the economy, according to monthly polling by various news outlets. A more recent Wall Street Journal survey found that voters were slightly more optimistic about the economy, but few credited President Biden.

In a Truth Social post President Trump made a day after the NBC interview, he bypassed union leadership and addressed the workers directly.

“Autoworkers, vote for Trump—I'll make you victorious and rich,” he wrote in capitalized letters. “If your ‘leaders’ won’t endorse me, vote them out of office, now.”

He repeated his claim that the Biden administration’s electric vehicle policy would ultimately send their jobs to China, adding that if President Biden stays in power they'll be “jobless & penniless within 4 years.”

The outcome of the strike should send a signal to other labor groups, as healthcare workers are negotiating a contract set to terminate the end of September as well. The UAW has made a high demand of a 40 percent pay raise over four years plus cost-of-living increases, pension expansions, and a 36 hour workweek for 40 hours of pay.

Stellantis has already reportedly offered 21 percent, which the union turned down. If the strikes drag on and the companies give in, it could bolster other unions in their efforts to continue or make use of a strike. If the unions ultimately come to an agreement close to what the companies offered early on, it could be used as an example to deter labor groups from doing the same.