Biden to Auto Workers: Stick With It 09/27 06:27
President Joe Biden grabbed a bullhorn on the picket line Tuesday and urged
striking auto workers to "stick with it" in an unparalleled show of support for
organized labor by a modern president.
VAN BUREN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) -- President Joe Biden grabbed a bullhorn on
the picket line Tuesday and urged striking auto workers to "stick with it" in
an unparalleled show of support for organized labor by a modern president.
Donning a union ballcap and exchanging fist bumps, Biden told United Auto
Workers strikers that "you deserve the significant raise you need" as he
stopped in the Detroit area just a day ahead of a planned visit by former
President Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in next
"No deal, no wheels!" workers chanted as Biden arrived at a General Motors
parts distribution warehouse, one of several facilities that has been targeted
in a widening strike now in its 12th day. "No pay, no parts!"
Despite concerns that a prolonged strike could undermine the economy,
particularly in the crucial battleground state of Michigan, the Democratic
president encouraged workers to keep fighting for better wages at a time when
car companies have seen rising profits.
Asked if UAW members deserved a 40% raise, one of their demands over the
course of negotiations, Biden said: "Yes. I think they should be able to
bargain for that."
He's repeatedly argued that auto companies have not gone far enough to meet
union demands, especially after making concessions in the wake of the 2008
"The fact of the matter is that you guys, the UAW, you saved the automobile
industry back in 2008 ... you made a lot of sacrifices. You gave up a lot. And
the companies were in trouble. Now they're doing incredibly well and guess
what? You should be doing incredibly well."
The White House said Biden was the first modern president to visit a picket
line, a sign of how far he's willing to go to cultivate union support as he
runs for reelection.
Lawmakers often appear at strikes to show solidarity with unions, and Biden
joined picket lines with casino workers in Las Vegas and auto workers in Kansas
City while seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
But sitting presidents, who have to balance the rights of workers with
disruptions to the economy, supply chains and other facets of everyday life,
have stayed out of the strike fray -- until Biden.
Unimpressed, Trump called Biden's visit "nothing more than a PR stunt from
Crooked Joe Biden to distract and gaslight the American people from his
disastrous Bidenomics policies that have led to so much economic misery across
The president spent less than half an hour at the Willow Run parts
distribution warehouse, where he was joined by UAW President Shawn Fain, who
rode with Biden in the presidential limousine to the picket line.
"Thank you, Mr. President, for coming to stand up with us in our
generation-defining moment," said Fain, who described the union as engaged in a
"kind of war" against "corporate greed."
"We do the heavy lifting. We do the real work," Fain said. "Not the CEOs."
Labor historians said they could not recall an instance when a sitting
president had joined an ongoing strike, even during the tenures of ardent
pro-union presidents such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman.
Theodore Roosevelt invited labor leaders alongside mine operators to the White
House amid a historic coal strike in 1902, a decision that was seen at the time
as a rare embrace of unions as Roosevelt tried to resolve the dispute.
Biden's visit to the picket line was the most significant demonstration of
his pro-union bona fides, a record that includes vocal support for unionization
efforts at Amazon.com facilities and executive actions that promoted worker
organizing. He also earned a joint endorsement of major unions earlier this
year and has avoided southern California for high-dollar fundraisers amid the
writers' and actors' strikes in Hollywood.
The United Farm Workers announced their endorsement of Biden on Tuesday,
calling him "an authentic champion for workers and their families, regardless
of their race or national origin." Biden's campaign manager, Julie Chavez
Rodriguez, is the granddaughter of Cesar Chavez, the union's co-founder.
The UAW has not endorsed Biden. Asked about that after landing in Michigan,
Biden told reporters that "I'm not worried about that."
Fain later said any endorsements would come later. "We've got to get good
contracts first and we'll work out those things down the road," he said.
At least one warehouse worker on the picket line was not swayed by the
visit. Curtis Cranford, who has 38 years with GM, was happy that Biden visited,
but said it wouldn't necessarily deter him from voting Republican in 2024.
"I think it means a lot. It should hopefully put some pressure on the
company. The White House is behind us" Cranford said.
Still, he said he and many union members disagree with Democrats on securing
the borders, abortion and other issues. And he said both Trump and Biden were
too old for the job.
Biden and other Democrats are aggressively touting the president's pro-labor
credentials as Trump works to make inroads in critical swing states where
unions remain influential, including Michigan and Pennsylvania. Biden is
leaning on his union support at a time when labor enjoys broad support from the
public, with 67% of Americans approving of labor unions in an August Gallup
The UAW strike, which expanded into 20 states last week, remains a dilemma
for the Biden administration since a part of the workers' grievances include
concerns about a broader transition to electric vehicles. The shift away from
gas-powered vehicles has worried some autoworkers because electric versions
require fewer people to manufacture and there is no guarantee that factories
that produce them will be unionized.
Adrian Mitchell, who works at the GM parts warehouse, said Biden would be
better for the middle class than Trump. "He supports the people in regards to
coming out here, showing solidarity with the UAW workers," Mitchell said. "He's
always been for the middle class. I can't speak about Trump."
On electric vehicles, Mitchell said workers are concerned that the
transition from internal combustion vehicles may cost them jobs. "We haven't
really gotten to that point to see the job losses yet," he said. "So we can't
look into the future to kind of see what's really going to happen. But we're
all a little worried about that right now."
Trump is skipping the second Republican primary debate on Wednesday and will
meet with striking autoworkers in Michigan, seeking to capitalize on discontent
over the state of the economy and anger over the Biden administration's push
for more electric vehicles -- a key component of its clean-energy agenda.
White House officials dismissed any notion that Trump forced their hand and
noted that Biden headed to Michigan at the request of Fain, who last week
invited the sitting president to join the strikers.
The Biden administration has no formal role in the negotiations, and the
White House pulled back a decision from the president earlier this month to
send two key deputies to Michigan after determining it would be more productive
for the advisers, Gene Sperling and acting Labor Secretary Julie Su, to monitor
talks from Washington.
Fain said Tuesday that negotiations were moving slowly and they'll escalate
the strike to more plants if they need to.