Biden stands with striking UAW autoworkers in Michigan

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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

President Joe Biden joined United Auto Workers members Tuesday on the picket line outside Detroit and urged strikers to continue their fight for new contracts with big pay raises.

“The fact of the matter is you guys, the UAW, you saved the auto industry back in 2008 and before, you made a lot of sacrifices, gave up a lot when the companies were in trouble, but now they’re doing incredibly well,” Biden told union members through a bullhorn.

“You should be doing incredibly well too,” he said.

“Stick with it. You deserve a significant raise and other benefits,” Biden said, wearing a UAW hat. “We saved them, it’s about time they step up for us.”

The White House dodged questions Monday about whether Biden supports the specific demands of the UAW workers.

But when asked at the picket line Tuesday whether he thinks workers deserve a 40% pay raise, Biden said “yes.”

President Joe Biden greets people on the United Auto Workers picket line outside GM’s Willow Run Distribution Center, in Bellville, Michigan, Sept. 26, 2023.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

The president traveled to the striking General Motors Redistribution Center outside Detroit at the invitation of UAW President Shawn Fain. The facility is one of 38 parts and distribution centers across 20 states currently on strike.

Former President Donald Trump is skipping the second Republican presidential debate Wednesday to rally with workers at an auto supplier nearby.

Workers at that facility are not represented by the UAW, and Fain has been critical of Trump’s visit.

Fain, speaking after Biden, thanked him for the stop, which marked the first time a sitting president has joined a picket line in at least a century.

“The CEOs think the future belongs to them,” Fain said.

“Today belongs to the auto workers in the working class … Thank you, Mr. President, for coming. We know the president will do right by the working class.”

The UAW strike placed Biden in a tough position politically.

While he has branded himself as “the most pro-union president in American history,” UAW demands are, in part, a response to his electric vehicle policies, which the union says will cost jobs. 

In addition to seeking 40% hourly pay increases, autoworkers are asking for a reduced, 32-hour, workweek; a shift back to traditional pensions; the elimination of compensation tiers and restoration of cost-of-living adjustments; as well as other items including enhanced retiree, vacation and family leave benefits.

The UAW, which represents 146,000 workers at General Motors, Ford and Chrysler’s parent company Stellantis, is the only major union to hold out on endorsing Biden for reelection.

The UAW has historically supported Democrats, and Fain has been a vocal opponent of Trump’s policies.

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