All autoworkers deserve deals like those the UAW won

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U.S. President Joe Biden puts on a t-shirt of the UAW Local 1268 during a United Auto Workers (UAW) union members meeting, in Belvidere, Illinois, U.S., November 9, 2023. 

Leah Millis | Reuters

DETROIT – President Joe Biden said Thursday that all autoworkers deserve contracts like the ones recently won by the United Auto Workers from General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler-parent Stellantis.

Biden, wearing a red UAW T-shirt given to him by a local union leader, said the deals won by UAW negotiators are “game changers” that set a “new standard” for blue-collar workers.

The deals include 25% wage increases, including 11% upon ratification; reinstatement of cost-of-living adjustments; additional contributions for retirees; billions in new investments; and other benefits. The tentative deals must still be ratified by union members; voting is ongoing.

“I’m a little selfish, I want this type of contract for all autoworkers,” Biden said during a visit with UAW President Shawn Fain in Belvidere, Illinois. “And I have a feeling the UAW has a plan for that.”

Biden said he personally spoke with Stellantis North America Chief Operating Officer Mark Stewart regarding a plant in Belvidere that the company had indefinitely idled earlier this year and was expected to potentially close.

“I told my team, ‘Make Stellantis know Belvidere is a priority,’ so I got on the phone and let him know personally I thought it was a priority,” Biden said.

President Joe Biden speaks next to Shawn Fain, president of the United Auto Workers, as he joins striking members of the union on the picket line outside GM’s Willow Run Distribution Center in Bellville, Michigan, Sept. 26, 2023.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

Under the UAW’s tentative agreement with Stellantis, the plant is expected to reopen to produce a midsize pickup truck in 2027, followed by $3.2 billion in new battery cell operations at or near the plant a year later.

The company declined to directly comment on Biden’s visit but said it “stayed true to our commitment to find a solution for the Belvidere Assembly Plant.”

“As part of negotiations with the UAW, we discussed numerous potential options for the plant, ultimately mutually agreeing on a solution that will secure Stellantis’ future in Belvidere for years to come,” the company said.

Despite this being Biden’s second event with Fain since the UAW launched roughly six weeks of strikes against the companies on Sept.15, the union has not endorsed Biden for reelection. The first event was Sept. 26 when Biden walked a UAW picket line – making him the first sitting president to do so with the union. Biden’s approval ratings are down, and several polls indicate he would face a difficult reelection bid against former President Donald Trump next year.

Biden’s comments about contracts for all automakers echoed Fain’s recent remarks about how the UAW’s next move is to organize non-union auto plants, which it has failed to do for decades.

Fain has said he plans to use the record contracts reached with the Detroit automakers, which must still be ratified by members, to assist in the union’s embattled organizing efforts elsewhere.

US President Joe Biden waves after speaking about the economy and the deal between the United Auto Workers (UAW) Union and the big-three automakers, in Belvidere, Illinois, on November 9, 2023.

Olivier Douliery | AFP | Getty Images

“We’ve created the threat of a good example, and now we’re going to build on it,” Fain said Thursday night when discussing Stellantis’ tentative agreement. “We just went on strike like we’ve never been on strike before and won a historic contract as a result. Now we’re going to organize like we’ve never organized before.”

The UAW has previously failed to organize foreign-based automakers in the U.S. Most recently, plants with Volkswagen and Nissan Motor fell short of the support needed to unionize. The UAW has previously discussed organizing Tesla’s Fremont plant in California with little to no traction in those efforts.

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