Biden to Join UAW Picket Line in Michigan Next Week

As the auto workers' strike against the Big Three enters its seventh day, escalation in work disruptions will add about 5,600 to the picket lines.
Biden to Join UAW Picket Line in Michigan Next Week
President Joe Biden speaks about supporting families, care workers, and care givers at the White House Rose Garden on April 18, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Andrew Moran
Emel Akan

WASHINGTON—President Joe Biden said on Sept. 22 that he will travel to Michigan on Sept. 26 “to join the picket line” to show his support for members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) who have been on strike against the Big Three automakers.

“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 X, formerly known as Twitter.

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

President Biden has accepted UAW President Shawn Fain's invitation to join a picket line in the organization's strike.

With the strike in its seventh day, the UAW expanded its work stoppage to 38 parts and distribution facilities across 20 states for General Motors and Stellantis. Meanwhile, Mr. Fain said that because Ford has shown a willingness to negotiate, no additional action will be taken against the automaker.

“We still have serious issues to work through, but we do want to recognize that Ford is showing that they’re serious about reaching a deal,” the UAW leader said in a Facebook Live video. “At GM and Stellantis, it’s a different story.”

The escalation in work disruptions would add about 5,600 workers to the picket lines. The union's contract expired at 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 14, and close to 13,000 UAW-represented members walked off the job. They initiated strikes at each of the Detroit Three's assembly plants simultaneously, a first for the 88-year-old institution.

During Mr. Fain's announcement, he invited President Biden to join the picket line.

“We invite and encourage everyone who supports our case to join us on the picket line—from our friends and families all the way up to the president of the United States,” Mr. Fain said.

At a press briefing, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre refrained from providing a direct answer before the announcement, noting that President Biden appreciates Mr. Fain and his invitation.

"The president has been really clear about this. He believes the union built the middle class, and it's something that he's said for years now. And, of course, he is a union guy who will continue to fight for UAW and also union workers. So that will not end," Ms. Jean-Pierre told reporters.

Biden, Fain, and Trump

Mr. Fain has maintained a lukewarm reception to President Biden's support, telling MSNBC on Sept. 18 that the current administration doesn't need to have a role in mediating a deal with the automakers.

“This battle is not about the president,” the UAW head stated. “It’s not about the former president or any other person prior to that. This battle is about the workers standing up for economic and social justice and getting their fair share because they’re fed up with going backward.”

Last week, President Biden announced he would dispatch acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and White House senior adviser Gene Sperling to Detroit to help with the contract negotiations. However, the White House canceled the trip after agreeing with the UAW that it would be better to meet virtually via Zoom.

Meanwhile, the union leadership criticized former President Donald Trump's planned rally in Detroit next week. The Republican front-runner will skip the second GOP primary debate and instead speak with union members and workers in the Motor City.

"The auto workers are being sold down the river by their leadership, and their leadership should endorse Trump," President Trump told NBC's "Meet the Press."

Mr. Fain hasn't accepted President Trump's support for workers. Meanwhile, the UAW is also the only major union not to endorse President Biden's 2024 reelection bid.

GM, Stellantis Respond to Escalation

GM called the strike escalation "unnecessary."

"The decision to strike an additional 18 of our facilities, affecting more than 3,000 team members plus their families and communities, adds validity to the blueprint identified in last night’s leaked texts—that the UAW leadership is manipulating the bargaining process for their own personal agendas," David Barnas, a company spokesman, said in a statement to The Epoch Times.

It was reported on Sept. 22 that a union director said in leaked messages that the targeted strikes could "keep [automakers] wounded for months" and that these actions are causing "recurring reputation damage and operational chaos" to the companies.

In the meantime, General Motors is maintaining "contingency plans for various scenarios" and will be ready to do the best thing for the business, customers, and dealers, Mr. Barnas said.

"We have now presented five separate economic proposals that are historic, addressing areas that our team members have said matter most—wage increases and job security—while allowing GM to succeed and thrive into the future. We will continue to bargain in good faith with the union to reach an agreement as quickly as possible.”

After the union director's comments were published, Stellantis questioned whether UAW leadership had ever been interested in establishing an agreement in a timely fashion.

"They seem more concerned about pursuing their own political agendas than negotiating in the best interests of our employees and the sustainability of our U.S. operations given the market’s fierce competition," company spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said in a statement to The Epoch Times.

Stellantis, which makes Chrysler and Jeep cars, stated that it has presented "a very competitive offer," including a 21.4 percent compounded pay increase for all current full-time hourly employees.

UAW has yet to respond to the carmaker's counterproposal, the company stated.

Andrew Moran has been writing about business, economics, and finance for more than a decade. He is the author of "The War on Cash."